Landmark Agent Orange Case Is Dismissed

Vietnamese woman sued chemical companies, but French court says it has no authority to rule
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2021 11:47 AM CDT
Landmark Agent Orange Case Is Dismissed
In this Jan.30, 2021, photo, Tran To Nga delivers a speech during a gathering in support of people exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, in Paris.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

She would have been the first Vietnamese civilian to win a judgment against the chemical companies that produced Agent Orange, notes the Washington Post. But a court in France on Monday dismissed the case brought by Tran To Nga against companies including Dow Chemical and Monsanto, now owned by Bayer. The court said it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on actions taken by the US military during the Vietnam War, reports AFP. The 79-year-old Tran, who worked as a journalist during the war, says she will appeal in what has been described as a landmark case, per the AP. Tran says she was exposed to the defoliant and blames it for the death of a daughter from a heart defect, for the skin and blood conditions of two surviving daughters, as well as for her own diabetes and an unspecified cancer. She moved to France after the war.

"I'm not fighting for myself, but for my children and the millions of victims," she said of the lawsuit she filed in 2014. In a statement after the court's decision, Bayer declared that "it has been well-established by courts for many years that wartime contractors ... operating at the behest of the US government, are not responsible for the alleged damage claims associated with the government’s use of such product during wartime." Tran's legal team called that an "obsolete definition of the principle of immunity" and demanded the release of all communication between the companies and the US government. While military veterans from the US and other nations have won compensation over health issues linked to Agent Orange, no Vietnamese civilian has successfully sued. (The secret spraying in Laos is "one of the last untold stories" of the war.)

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