Castillo v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., Inc.

854 So. 2d 1264 (2003)

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Castillo v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., Inc.

Florida Supreme Court
854 So. 2d 1264 (2003)

  • Written by Tanya Munson, JD

Facts

John and Donna Castillo (plaintiffs) alleged that Donna Castillo was exposed to Benlate, an agricultural fungicide, and that the active ingredient in Benlate, benomyl, entered her bloodstream. The Castillos claimed that the exposure to benomyl caused microphthalmia, a rare birth defect involving severely underdeveloped eyes, in their unborn son John. Donna Castillo claimed that in November 1989, when she was seven weeks pregnant, she walked past a farm owned by Pine Island Farms, Inc. (Pine Island) and was drenched by a mist that was being sprayed by a tractor on the farm. The manager of the farm had stated that they had sprayed Benlate in November 1989. The Castillos brought a products liability and negligence claim against E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., Inc (DuPont), the manufacturer of Benlate, and Pine Island (defendants). The Castillos sought to introduce testimony from Dr. Charles Vyvyan Howard. Dr. Howard testified in pretrial depositions that he believed fetal exposure to benomyl at the concentration of 20 parts per billion (ppb) in the maternal bloodstream would cause microphthalmia in humans. Dr. Howard based his conclusion on rat gavage studies, lab experiments on human and rat cells, the results of dermal and genetic testing, and differential diagnosis. Dr. Howard considered epidemiological studies but found them flawed and uninformative. DuPont and Pine Island moved to exclude Dr. Howard’s testimony, arguing that his methodology for determining whether and at what level Benlate could cause birth defects in humans was not generally accepted by the scientific community and was inadmissible. The trial court denied DuPont and Pine Island’s motion and admitted the testimony. The jury held DuPont strictly liable and both DuPont and Pine Island negligent and returned a verdict for the Castillos. DuPont and Pine Island appealed, arguing that Dr. Howard’s testimony should not have been admitted. The third district determined that Dr. Howard’s testimony was inadmissible and reversed the jury verdict.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Quince, J.)

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