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Agent Orange Suit Not Barred by Prior Class Settlement

Veterans May Sue for Agent Orange Injuries

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- June 13, 2003 -- Vietnam veterans' claims against the manufacturers of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange are not barred by a 1984 class action settlement, according to the U.S. Supreme Court (Dow Chemical Company, et al., Petitioners v. Daniel Raymond Stephenson et al.). In a 4-4 ruling, the Court affirmed the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Stephenson v. Dow Chemical), which held that veterans who would not have obtained any relief under the prior settlement retained the right to sue.

Agent Orange is a herbicide that contains toxic chemicals including dioxin. Two Vietnam veterans developed cancer after 1994. They charged that their condition was due to war-time exposure to Agent Orange, and hoped to file a suit against Dow and other chemical companies.

Public Justice filed an amicus or friend-of-the court brief. It successfully urged the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize the veterans' right to sue because they had not received adequate representation in the original class action, and therefore were not bound by the 1984 settlement. The Public Justice brief is part of the group's Class Action Abuse Prevention Project, a nationwide campaign dedicated to monitoring, exposing, and fighting class action abuse nationwide.

"This is a huge victory for Vietnam veterans injured in the line of duty," said Public Justice Foundation Board Member Gerson Smoger, who argued on behalf of the veterans in the Supreme Court. "Veterans exposed to Agent Orange will finally get their day in court."

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