Crop Protection

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Crop Protection Product Litigation and Counselling

Our agricultural product experience combines regulatory know-how with product liability and litigation skills, positioning us to effectively address the risks and challenges of crop protection.

We have represented companies in some of the largest and most impactful crop protection product mass lawsuits in the country over the last three decades.

Representative Product-Related Litigation

  • Imprelis® Litigation and Claims Process: Supported client from their initial receipt of claims that alleged tree damage from the application of its landscape product Imprelis®. We organized a broad-ranging root cause investigation that resulted in a process for evaluating and replacing damaged trees, which in turn shut down the class-action litigation by serving as the court’s vehicle for paying claims. We led the EPA interface and negotiations effort and assisted with communications and the company’s internal investigations. We litigated the ensuing class actions with lead trial counsel.
  • Endangered Species Act Litigation: Represented three leading crop protection companies in EPA litigation regarding registration for neonicotinoid products alleged to be harming bees. We prepared experts for testimony and presented the science to the court, and continue to represent the company in ongoing proceedings. This representation is part of a much broader set of matters in which we defend registrations and products against challenges under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Neonicotinoid Litigation: Presently defending a major crop protection product manufacturer in a lawsuit in the U.S. claiming that neonicotinoid-treated seed products harmed bee colonies.
  • Benlate® Crop Damage Litigation: Served as national coordinating and trial counsel in the Benlate® crop damage litigation, which extended over a ten-year period. Our lawyers played a key role in case strategy, expert development, and depositions. We co-managed multiple overflow events such as media and investor communications, EPA strategies and negotiations, and product cessation strategies.
  • Benlate® Health Effects Litigation: We served as trial and national counsel in eight cases alleging that Benlate® fungicide caused birth defects from farm-related exposures. FIFRA reregistration risk assessments and related supporting studies played a critical role in the cases’ resolution. We litigated the cases in West Virginia and Delaware and successfully excluded plaintiffs’ causation and exposure experts under Daubert and summary judgment, and dismissals of all eight matters were upheld on appeal.
  • Insecticide Product Registration Litigation: We defended DuPont and Syngenta insecticide products in federal court. We demonstrated that the new products did not adversely impact non-target populations.
  • Agent Orange and Related Dioxin Litigation: Litigated and tried cases that alleged exposure to substances and implicated the Agent Orange epidemiological literature.

Representative Counselling & Regulatory Engagements

  • Prop 65: Our California Proposition 65 litigation team assists companies with Prop 65 warnings and litigation. One leading case we are handling involves providing regulatory advice to, and litigation defense for, an award-winning crop protection company with respect to its pesticide products.
  • Risk Analysis & Due Diligence:  Assisted a crop protection company to determine the potential risk of marketing additional products involving a specific molecule under various uses and with revised label language.
  • Stewardship Protocols: We have crafted product stewardship protocols for multiple clients.
  • Product Sale Risk Assessment:  We have assisted in negotiating the sale of a pesticide business unit to ensure that potential tort liability shifted with the buyer of the product. 
  • Product Cessation:  We have advised clients on removing a product from the market, including products subject to large-scale litigation and attendant registration, cancellation, and existing stocks issues.
  • Pesticide Task Forces – We provide counsel and representation to numerous pesticide joint research cooperatives.  Such counseling includes corporate and governance issues, as well as registration review regulatory counseling.
  • Regulatory and Sales - Advised and represented a multi-billion dollar manufacturer before the EPA with respect to the development, production, promotion, sale, distribution, use, and disposal of pesticide products under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and equivalent state laws.
  • Pesticide Data Compensation – We have prosecuted and defended against dozens of FIFRA data compensation claims.  Through our task force and data compensation representation, we have a practical understanding of pesticide testing and the role such testing plays in pesticide exposure and risk assessment.

Crisis Management

Managing the regulatory response to a crop protection issue is a critical first step in controlling agency response, public reaction, and reducing the risk of litigation. Working side-by-side, our combined regulatory and litigation legal teams quickly identify the level of threat, develop legal strategies, and draft appropriate responses across multiple fronts. This coordinated, multi-faceted approach can help your company take timely corrective action, save money, and, often, avoid litigation. Should the matter escalate, we have the right team in place to help you further minimize legal, regulatory, and reputational damage. Our approach includes:

  • Conducting initial investigations and addressing any reporting requirements.
  • Monitoring and responding to social media.
  • Managing the decisional process of whether to pay claims or litigate.
  • Creating a claims process to short-circuit class action litigation and reclaim customer confidence
  • Conducting internal investigations to determine compliance with company policies.
  • Managing federal (EPA/FDA) and state regulatory relationships as well as public messaging.
  • Developing overall litigation, expert, media and investor relations strategy, while defending the ensuing litigation itself, including through trial and on appeal.

Representative Crisis Management Engagements

  • Environmental Damage: Coordinated a six-month investigation effort addressing the Imprelis® herbicide tree damage claims to assess causation and structure the customer and court response to an influx of claims.
  • Birth Defect Litigation: Responded to a threat of multi-state, home product fungicide birth defect litigation after the loss of a trial verdict in Florida, including preparing the defense of an anticipated 100 claims.
  • Hazardous Material Release: Responded to a release of hazardous material at a national nuclear laboratory, and assisted in internal investigations, multiple agency investigations, potential self-reporting obligations, and remedial measures.
  • Environmental Justice Litigation: Defended environmental justice litigation including an onslaught of news coverage, local town halls, and community activism, through both civil trial and administrative proceedings.
  • Foodborne Bacteria Recall: Responded to FDA recall demands following the discovery of salmonella in a client's manufacturing facility. Guided our client through meetings with FDA and the Director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to address recall plan and consumer safety.
  • Foreign Matter Food Contamination: Advised a client in their market withdrawal of food items distributed to franchise stores after the discovery that a manufacturing failure may have dispersed foreign objects into the articles of food.

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Crowell & Moring LLP is an international law firm with offices in the United States, Europe, MENA, and Asia that represents clients in litigation and arbitration, regulatory and policy, and transactional and corporate matters. The firm is internationally recognized for its representation of Fortune 500 companies in high-stakes litigation and government-facing matters, as well as its ongoing commitment to pro bono service and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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