by Yasmin Ajirniar
Last week, on Tuesday, September 23rd, French courts delivered a heavy blow to Dow France, one that cost 99 million euros in frozen assets. The action serves as a preventative measure, should the company attempt to move its money outside of the country prior its January trial in 2020. Workers and workers’ families who have been left uncompensated for damages caused by the product, Nemagon, have filed a lawsuit against Dow Chemical, the multi-national manufacturing parent company of Dow France.
First of all, although the workers rights are now being pursued in 2019, it is necessary to return to the 1970’s when Nemagon, a pesticide, was banned in the United States for the health risks it poses. However, large companies such as Dow Chemical which are headquartered in the United States, continued to produce and distribute the pesticide, particularly in South American countries. For example, in Nicaragua, thousands of banana farm workers were sterilized from using Nemagon.
In spite of legal action taken by the workers in Nicaragua, Dow Chemical refused to compensate the workers who were denied the right a family, a fundamental human right, claiming that the trial had been unfair towards the company. This was decades ago. Today in France, where a large share of Dow operations, Dow finances, and affected workers reside, the case has reappeared.
Dow Chemical is no stranger to French Courts which are known to undertake legal cases involved the rights of an individual. Two years ago, in 2017, products containing sulfoxaflor from Dow Chemical were questioned regarding their toxicity towards bees.
In consideration of the timing, location, and application of the ruling, the decision by the French courts in early 2020 will be significant, and it will be valuable to follow the progression of the lawsuit. How well will Dow France defend its case against the workers? According to European law, the precedent the court sets should apply across the European Union. What precedent will the court establish? And will it be actually be enforced outside French borders?