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Taylor AG Indus. v. Pure-Gro

ELR Citation: 25 ELR 20899
Nos. No. 93-16852, 54 F.3d 555/40 ERC 1777/(9th Cir., 04/24/1995)

The court holds that Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) §24(b) preempts claims by partnerships engaged in cotton farming in Arizona against the manufacturers and a distributor of two defoliant chemicals for their alleged failure to warn about the risks of using the chemicals. The partnerships claimed that applying a mixture of the chemicals in accordance with one of their labels damaged their cotton crops. The court first holds that FIFRA preempts the partnerships' failure-to-warn claim against the manufacturers and distributor to the extent that the claim requires additional or different information in the manufacturers' labels. FIFRA preempts a common-law claim that imposes a state labeling requirement that is different from or in addition to FIFRA's requirements. The court holds that §24(b)'s preemption of state law is not limited to state law that actively regulates the sale or use of any federally registered pesticide. The court also holds that FIFRA preempts the partnerships' claim for inadequate point-of-sale warnings, because the claim is premised ultimately on the inadequacy of the product label, and §24(b) preempts failure-to-warn claims based on inadequate labeling. Next the court declines to analyze EPA's performance of its duties in the label-approval process under FIFRA. Such review is not a function of this court and is irrelevant to the preemption analysis. The court holds that §24(b) preempts the partnerships' negligent testing claim. The core of this claim is that the manufacturers failed to mark accurately their labels, and this amounts to a claim of inadequate labeling. The court next notes that where distributor liability is essentially predicated on the language in the manufacturer's label, FIFRA's preemption provision applies equally to manufacturers and distributors. The court holds that FIFRA preempts the partnerships' claim for breach of express warranty against the distributor, because the claim is predicated on a duty to provide information in addition to or different from that which FIFRA requires and, thus, is within the scope of the manufacturers' label. The partnerships provided no evidence establishing that the distributor made any statements that were inconsistent with or went beyond the labels or the product guide. The court also holds that FIFRA preempts the partnerships' claims against the distributor for breach of implied warranties. The claims of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose operate by state law to impose labeling requirements indirectly, which FIFRA preempts. Finally, the court holds that an award of attorney fees to the manufacturers is inappropriate, because the partnerships' arguments were not "wholly without merit."

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Patti A. Goldman
Public Citizens Litigation Group
2000 P St. NW, Ste. 700, Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-3000

Counsel for Defendants
Francis J. Balint Jr.
Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman, Hienton, Miner & Fry
4041 N. Central Ave., Ste. 1100, Phoenix AZ 85012
(602) 274-1100

Before Choy, Canby, and Nelson, JJ.: