Laws Governing Use And Impact Of Agricultural Chemicals: Liability For Damage Caused By Agricultural Chemical Drift

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Laws Governing Use And Impact Of Agricultural Chemicals: Liability For Damage Caused By Agricultural Chemical Drift
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Fact sheet
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Olexa, Michael T.
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University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
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"First published: November 1991. Date revised: September 1995."
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"FRE-75"

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FactSheetFRE-75 September1995LawsGoverningUseandImpactofAgriculturalChemicals: LiabilityforDamageCausedbyAgriculturalChemicalDrift1 MichaelT.Olexa2Aerialapplicationofpesticides,whileanefficient andeffectiveavailablemannerofapplyingchemicals tolargeareas,isalsoparticularlydangerousto surroundingpropertyandcrops.Thisissofortwo reasons:(1)chemicalswhicharebeneficialwhen appliedtoonecropmaybedetrimentaltonontargetedcrops,animals,orhumanbeings,and(2) chemicalspraysordusts,onceairbornecandriftand landinunintendedlocations.Whenpresentin combination,thesefactorsaccountformostofthe damageandlitigationarisingfromaerialapplication ofpesticides. Althoughcourtshaverecognizedthatagricultural sprayingisabeneficialactivity,theyhavealso recognizeditspotentialforcausingdamage.Courts haveimposedliabilityonaerialapplicatorsand landownersundertheoriesoftrespass,negligence,and strictliability. Thefollowingprecautionshavebeen recommendedtoavoiddamagethroughtheaerial applicationofdangerouschemicals: Followlabelinstructions.1Thelabelisthelaw. Regularlycalibrateapplicationequipmentto preventoverapplicationorunevenapplication.2 Theapplicatormusthaveandproperlyuseall protectiveclothingandequipmentrecommended onthelabel.3 Timeofapplication,theintervalbetween applicationandharvestingorfeeding,andcrop reentryspecifiedbythelabelmustbefollowed.4 Followrecommendedapplicationrates.5 Keepthoroughrecordsofallaspectsofpesticide applicationsincluding:copiesofproductlabels, eachapplication,ratesofapplication,exact locationofapplications,weatherattimeof application,ratesofapplication,recordsof equipmentcalibrationmaintenance,andanyother itemsthatwoulddocumentconscientious adherencetothelaw. 1.ThisdocumentisFactSheetFRE-75,aseriesoftheFoodandResourceEconomicsDepartment,FloridaCooperativeExtensionService, InstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciences,UniversityofFlorida.Firstpublished:November1991.Daterevised:September1995. 2.MichaelT.Olexa,ProfessorandAgriculturalLawSpecialist,FoodandResourceEconomicsDepartment,CooperativeExtensionService, InstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciences,UniversityofFlorida,GainesvilleFL32611. Thisdocumentisdesignedtoprovideaccurate,currentandauthoritativeinformationonthesubject.However,sincethelaws,administrativerulings, andcourtdecisionsonwhichitisbasedaresubjecttoconstantrevision,portionsofthispublicationcouldbecomeoutdatedatanytime.This publicationisdistributedwiththeunderstandingthattheauthorsarenotengagedinrenderinglegalorotherprofessionaladvice,andtheinformation containedhereinshouldnotberegardedasasubstituteforprofessionaladvice.Forthesereasons,theutilizationofthesematerialsbyanyperson constitutesanagreementtoholdharmlesstheauthors,theInstituteofFoodanAgriculturalSciences,andtheUniversityofFloridaforanyliability claims,damages,orexpensesthatmaybeincurredbyanypersonasaresultofreferencetoorrelianceontheinformationcontainedinthis publication. TheInstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciencesisanequalopportunity/affirmativeactionemployerauthorizedtoprovideresearch,educational informationandotherservicesonlytoindividualsandinstitutionsthatfunctionwithoutregardtorace,color,sex,age,handicap,ornational origin.Forinformationonobtainingotherextensionpublications,contactyourcountyCooperativeExtensionServiceoffice. FloridaCooperativeExtensionService/InstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciences/UniversityofFlorida/ChristineTaylorStephens,Dean

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LiabilityforDamageCausedbyAgriculturalChemicalDrift Page2 Sprayonlywhenwindspeedislow(thepesticide labelshouldspecifymaximumwindspeedforsafe application).6 Pesticidesshouldbeappliedsoastominimizethe possibilityofdrift,i.e.,usingbufferzones, checkingwinddirection,adjustingdropletsize, andbeingcertaintocutoffspraybeforereaching theboundariesoftheareatobesprayed. Insecticidesmustnotbeusedwhenbeesorother pollinatinginsectsarevisitingcropsbeing treated.7 Nearbybeekeepersshouldbegivenappropriate noticeofintenttosprayandofchemicalstobe usedsotheycanprotecttheirbees.8Checkyour staterequirementsregardingnotificationofbee keepers. Theapplicatorshouldmakeacarefulaerial surveyoftheareatobesprayedimmediately priortoapplicationtoensurethatnopersons, livestock,orwildlifeareinornearthearea.9 Workersmustnotbeallowedtoentertreated fieldspriortothere-entrytimespecifiedonthe labelorbystatelaw.10STRICTLIABILITYInfourstates,Louisiana,Oklahoma,Oregon,and Washington,courtshavelabeledaerialapplicationof pesticidesan"ultrahazardous"or"abnormally dangerous"activity,andhaveimposedstrictliability fordamagedonewithoutrequiringproofoffault.11In1957,Louisianawasthefirststatetoimpose strictliabilityfordamagescausedbytheaerial applicationofpesticides.InGotreauxv.Gary ,12the defendantsprayedhisricecropwith2,4-D.This herbicidedriftedontotheplaintiff'scottonandpea cropslocatedoverthreemilesawayanddestroyed them.Thecourtrecognizedthenecessityofapplying pesticides,butheldthattheplaintiffcouldnotbe unreasonablyinconveniencedordeniedtherightto enjoyhisproperty.Thecourtsummeduptheeffect oftheapplicationofstrictliability: ...negligenceoffault,intheseinstances,isnota requisitetoliability,irrespectiveofthefactthat theactivitiesresultingindamagesareconducted with...reasonablecareandinaccordancewith modernandacceptedmethods.13In1961,theOregonSupremeCourt,inLoev. Lenhardt ,14imposedstrictliabilityinan unintentionaltrespasssuit,findingthattherewasno needtoprovefaultornegligencewherethe defendantswereengagedinan"extrahazardous" activity.Inthiscase,thedefendantswereusinga mixtureofdinitroanddieseloilasanherbicide.15Thespraydrifted,having,inthecourt'swords,a "swiftanddrasticeffect"ontheplaintiff'scrops.16Thecourt,noting"thehighdegreeofdangerinherent inthesprayingofagriculturalchemicalsfromthe aircraft"17determinedthatstrictliabilityshould attachtotheactivity.18Thecourtstatedtheusual justificationfortheimpositionofstrictliabilityrather thananegligencestandard:"...theelementoffault, ifitcanbecalledthat,liesinthedeliberatechoiceby thedefendanttoinflictahighdegreeofriskuponhis neighbor,eventhoughutmostcareisobservedin doingso."19TheWashingtonStateSupremeCourtin1977 imposedstrictliabilityoncropsprayingoperationsin Langanv.Valicopters .20Inthiscasetheplaintiffs wereorganicfarmers.Thedefendant'shelicopter sprayedaneighboringfarmwiththepesticides ThiodanandGuthion.Theplaintiffssoughtdamages forpesticideswhichdriftedontotheircropof organicallygrownvegetables,renderingthem unsalableascertifiedorganicproduce.Plaintiffs proceededtodestroytheircrop,andfiledaclaimfor fulldamages.Inupholdingaverdictintheplaintiff's favor,thecourtappliedthetestforimpositionof strictliabilitysuggestedbytheRestatement(Second) ofTorts ,21andconcludedthatcropsprayingwasan abnormallydangerousactivity,justifyingthe impositionofstrictliability. Inreachingthisconclusion,thecourtstressedthat therewasnoprooftosuggestthatitispossibleto eliminatetheriskofdriftbytheexerciseof reasonablecare.Thecourtaddedthatwhileaerial applicationwasprevalentinthearea,itwascarried outbyarelativelysmallnumberofpeople.In justifyingitsdecisiontoimposestrictliability,the courtstatesthat"usefulbutdangerousactivitiesmust paytheirownway."22NEGLIGENCEOtherstateswhichhaveconsideredcases involvingdamagecausedbypesticidedrifthave appliedanegligencestandard,bothinnegligence actionsandunintentionaltrespassactions.A negligencestandardrequiresproofoffaultbeforea

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LiabilityforDamageCausedbyAgriculturalChemicalDrift Page3plaintiffcanrecoverlosses,damages,etc.Usersof agriculturalchemicalsshouldnotethatcourtshave beenwillingtoassignliabilityonveryslightevidence ofnegligence. Thecourtsofatleasttwelvestateshaveheldthat theaerialapplicationofpesticidesisan"inherently dangerous"activity.Thismeansthataplaintiff seekingdamagescanrecoveruponalessershowingof negligence.Iftheactivitywhichiscausingtheharm werealessdangerousactivity,thentheplaintiffmust offermoreevidenceofnegligenceinordertorecover damages.Ofteninthesejurisdictionsthecourtwill seeminglyimplynegligencefromthefactthatdamage occurs,makingthistheoryofrecovery,inessence, closetostrictliability. TheKansascaseofBinderv.Perkins 23required ahigherstandardofcare,butalsofoundaspecific instanceofnegligence.Inthiscase,thedefendant's applicationofa2,4-D/dieseloilmixturetoawheat cropseriouslydamagedtheplaintiff'salfalfacrop. Therewasnoevidenceofdirectspraydriftofthe chemicalontotheplaintiff'scrop,butinstead,fumes fromthetreatedfieldcausedthedamage.24Thecourtfoundthattheherbicidewascarefully appliedwhenthewindwasblowingawayfromthe plaintiff'scropinordertominimizedangertothe plaintiff'salfalfa.Nevertheless,thedefendantwas negligentinapplyinganoverlystrongmixturewhich extendedtheevaporationtimeforthe2,4-D.When thewindshifted,thefumesenteredtheplaintiff's field.Thecourtcharacterizedthehandlingof2,4-D asahazardousactivity,andstatedthat"aparticular hazardcallsforincreasedcare;andthegreaterthe risk,themoreimperativetheobligation."25Thereareothercaseswherenegligencehas clearlybeenestablished.Theseofteninvolve situationswherechemicalswerenegligentlyreleased inexcessivewindsoroverthewrongproperty,causing damagetocropsorlivestock.Inafewcases,aerial applicatorshavebeenheldliableforfailureto properlycleanstoragetanksorotherwiseproperly maintaintheirequipmentwherethisfailureresulted indamagefrommisapplication.Onecaseimposed liabilitywherethepilotoftheplanenegligently dousedaworkerwithapesticide,causingsevere illness.Other,moreunusualcases,haveinvolvedthe deathofaflagmaninthefieldstruckbythelanding gearoftheairplane,andtheimpositionofliabilityfor thelossofturkeysfrightenedtodeathbyalowflying plane.RESPECTIVELIABILITYOF APPLICATORSANDLANDOWNERSAlmostallaerialapplicatorsofagricultural chemicalsintheUnitedStatesareindependent contractorshiredbyfarmerstotreattheirfields.This raisestheissueofwhetherfarmersshouldbeliable fordamagescausedbyanindependentapplicator. Thegeneralruleisthatapersonisnotliableforthe tortsofanindependentcontractor.However,many stateshaveheldthatbecauseaerialsprayingof pesticidesinvolvesaheavyriskthatdamagetoothers mayresult,afarmermaynotescapeliabilitysimplyby havingtheworkdonebyanindependentcontractor. Thus,in1976inBoroughsv.Joiner ,26theAlabama SupremeCourtruledthatafarmerwhohiredan aerialapplicatortosprayhiscropswithEndrinwas liablefortheresultingpollutionofanearbyfish pond. AsthecourtinBoroughs pointsout,however,a farmerisgenerallynotstrictlyliablefordamage causedbytheaerialsprayingofhispropertybyan independentcontractor:"Thetestisoneof reasonableness.Liability...isimposedonthe contractorforfailuretoexerciseduecare."27Thus, whiletheapplicatorisliableforhisownnegligence, thefarmeralsohasadutytotakestepstoensurethat thirdpartiesarenotharmedbytheoperation. Therefore,toreduceexposuretoliability,afarmer shouldtakeprecautions,suchaswarningthe applicatorofnearbycrops,farmponds,orlivestock thatcouldbedamagedbythechemicalbeingapplied, givingnoticeofintenttospraytoallneighbors, supervisingthesprayingoperationtoensurethatall applicationinstructionsonthelabelarefollowed closely,andinspectingtheapplicator'sequipment. Conversely,anapplicatorwhofailstoheedthe instructionsofthefarmerwhohiredtheapplicator maylosetheopportunitytoholdthefarmerjointly liable. Adifferentcaseispresentedinthosejurisdictions thathaveheldaerialapplicationofagricultural chemicalstobeanactivitysubjecttostrictliability. Becausenegligenceisnotnecessarytoimpose liability,thequestionarisesastowhichoftwononnegligentactorsshouldpay.InLoev.Lenhardt ,the OregonSupremeCourtplacedtheburdenonthe landowner.Thecourtnotedthatitwasthefarmer whomadethedecisiontoapplypesticidesbyair,and thusitwasthefarmerwhowasresponsiblefor exposinghisneighborstotheriskposedbyanextra

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LiabilityforDamageCausedbyAgriculturalChemicalDrift Page4hazardousactivity.Thisfactrenderedtherisk,inthe court'swords,"non-delegable."28Becausethefarmermaybeheldliableforthe tortsoftheapplicator,thefarmershouldchoosethe applicatorcarefully.Farmersshouldcarryliability insurancetocoverpotentialdamageorensurethat theapplicatorhasapolicythatwillindemnifythe farmerfordamagescaused.29DEFINITIONS,ABBREVIATIONS ANDACRONYMS CitationDefinitionsEtseq. :andthefollowing Id :thesame;usedtoindicateareference previouslymade. Infra :within;usedtoindicateareferencemade inalaterpartofthepaper. Supra :above;usedtoindicateareferencemade inapreviouspartofthepaper.DefinitionsActualDamages --Theamountawardedtoa plaintiffincompensationoftheplaintiff'sactual andreallossorinjury. CommonLaw --Itisabodyoflawthatdevelops andderivesthroughjudicialdecisions,as distinguishedfromlegislativeenactments. Enjoin --Torequireaperson,bywritof injunction,toperform,ortoabstainordesist from,someact. Injunctions --Acourtorderprohibitingsomeone fromdoingsomespecifiedactorcommanding someonetoundosomewrongorinjury. Inherentlydangerous --Dangerinheringinan instrumentalityorconditionitselfatalltimes,so astorequirespecialprecautionstopreventinjury; notdangerarisingfrommerecasualorcollateral negligenceofotherswithrespecttounder particularcircumstances. NominalDamages --Thetriflingsumawardedto aplaintiffinanaction,wherethereisno substantiallossorinjurytobecompensated,but stillthelawrecognizesatechnicalinvasionofhis rightsorabreachofthedefendant'sduty. PunitiveDamages --Damagesthatareaboveand beyondthatwhichwouldcompensatetheplaintiff forhisloss.Theyarebasedonthepublicpolicy ofpunishingadefendantwhoactedwillfully, maliciously,orfraudulently. StatutoryLaw --Thebodyoflawcreatedbyacts ofthelegislatureincontrasttoconstitutionaland commonlaw. Definitionsaretakenfrom Black'sLawDictionary 1990edition.AbbreviationsC.F.R.:CodeofFederalRegulations U.S.C.:UnitedStatesCodeAcronymListBMP-BestManagementPractices CERCLA-ComprehensiveEnvironmental Response,Compensation,andLiabilityAct CZMA-CoastalZoneManagementAct DOT-DepartmentofTransportation EPA-EnvironmentalProtectionAgency ESA-EndangeredSpeciesAct FAA-FederalAviationAdministration FACT-Food,Agriculture,Conservation,and TradeAct FDA-FoodandDrugAdministration FFDCA-FederalFood,Drug,andCosmeticAct FIFRA-FederalInsecticide,Fungicide,and RodenticideAct IPM-IntegratedPestManagement MCL-MaximumContaminantLevel MCLG-MaximumContaminantLevelGoals NPDES-NationalPollutionDischarge EliminationSystem OSHA-OccupationalSafetyandHealthAct PPE-PersonalProtectiveEquipment RCRA-ResourceConservationandRecovery Act RCWP-RuralCleanWaterProgram REI-Restricted-EntryInterval SARA-SuperfundAmendmentsand ReauthorizationAct TPQ-ThresholdPlanningQuantity USDA-UnitedStatesDepartmentofAgriculture WPS-WorkerProtectionStandard

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LiabilityforDamageCausedbyAgriculturalChemicalDrift Page5ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSTheauthorisindebtedtolegalresearchersSusan Kubar,ToniCunninghamandPatrickMeriwetherof theUniversityofFloridaCollegeofLawandthose stateandfederalagencypersonnelwhogaveoftheir timeandadviceinthepreparationofthispublication. Thispublicationissupportedinpartbyagrant fromtheNationalAgriculturalPesticideImpact AssessmentProgram(NAPIAP)oftheUnitedStates DepartmentofAgriculture.1.NeilE.Harl,AgriculturalLaw .01n.47(1982). 2.Id 3.Id 4.Id 5.Id 6.Id 7.Id 8.Id 9.See Holtv.Dep'tofFoodandAgriculture ,171Cal.App.3d427,435-36(1985)(Failuretomakecertainthatnopersonswerein theareabyconductinganaerialsurveyconstitutednegligencewhenpersonsworkingnearthefieldweresprayed,regardlessofthe factthatsuchasurveywasnotacommonpractice). 10.40C.F.R..208(1993). 11.See MichaelT.Olexa,CommonLawStandardsofConductandTheoriesofLiability ,notes7-8andaccompanyingtext. 12.94So.2d293(La.1957). 13.Id .at295. 14.362P.2d312(Or.1961). 15.Id .at315. 16.Id .at316. 17.Id .at317. 18.Id .at318. 19.Id .at317. 20.567P.2d218(Wash.1977). 21.See MichaelT.Olexa,CommonLawStandardsofConductandTheoriesofLiability ,note7andaccompanyingtext. 22.567P.2dat223. 23.516P.2d1012(Kan.1977) 24.Id .at1016. 25.Id

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LiabilityforDamageCausedbyAgriculturalChemicalDrift Page626.337So.2d340(Ala.1976). 27.Id .at343. 28.362P.2dat318. 29.See Harl,supra note1,at.01[3][c].