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Lyall v. Leslie's Poolmart

Citation: 28 ELR 21165
No. 96-CV-60201-AA, 984 F. Supp. 587/(E.D. Mich., 10/31/1997)

The court holds that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) preempts failure to warn claims brought by the purchasers of a container of chlorine tablets, but that FIFRA does not preempt their defective packaging and product design claims. The court first holds that the purchasers' failure to warn claims for allegedly inadequate labeling are preempted by FIFRA. Case law supports the conclusion that FIFRA preempts failure to warn claims based on labeling approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Further, the container in question did in fact bear an EPA-approved label. Thus, the purchasers' argument that the manufacturers violated EPA requirements by not specifically registering the 40-pound container is without merit. The court next holds that because there is no actual conflict between any federal requirement and the purchasers' state tort-law claims for defective packaging FIFRA does not preempt the purchasers' negligent design and manufacturing claims relating to the container. Although FIFRA allows EPA to regulate packaging of pesticides, the only specific area that EPA has chosen to regulate is the area of child-resistant packaging. There simply are no other federal statutory requirements under FIFRA or under the EPA regulations that govern the design of pesticide containers. Neither the container nor its design were submitted for EPA approval. The manufacturers merely certified that its packaging met EPA child-resistant packaging requirements in its application to register its chlorine tablets with EPA. The court also holds that the purchasers' design-defect claims are not preempted by FIFRA. Only the purchasers' claims that the chlorine tablets were not properly labeled and failed to contain proper warnings are preempted by FIFRA. The purchasers' design-defect claims relate directly to how the product and the container it was housed in functioned and do not merely restate the purchasers' failure to warn claims.

The court further holds that the manufacturers' argument that the purchasers' claims are preempted by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) must be squarely rejected. There is no conflict between the purchasers' product-liability action and requirements under the HMTA that govern the transportation, not the end use, of hazardous material. The manufacturers' alleged compliance with U.N. regulations for the transportation of hazardous materials will not immunize the manufacturers from liability to an end user. The regulations that the manufacturers seeks to rely on establish general standards for packaging for transportation and do not resolve the common-law duty to package the material so that it is appropriate for reasonable use. Last, the court holds that the purchasers have presented sufficient facts to create a triable issue for the jury as to whether it was unreasonable for one of the manufacturers to follow the specifications of another company that allegedly posed obvious hazards.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Louis G. Corey
Corey & Carolan
225 S. Main St., 3d Fl., Royal Oak MI 48067
(248) 548-9700

Counsel for Defendant
Nancy L. Waldmann
Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss
One Woodward Ave., Ste. 2400, Detroit MI 48226
(313) 961-8380