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Langan v. Valicopters, Inc.

567 P.2d 218 (1977)

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Langan v. Valicopters, Inc.

Washington Supreme Court

567 P.2d 218 (1977)

Facts

Patrick and Dorothy Langan (plaintiffs) raised organic crops on a small farm in Washington. They belonged to the Northwest Organic Food Producers’ Association (the association). The association prohibited its members from marketing as organic any food having pesticide residue of more than 10 percent of the residue permitted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Thalheimer Farms was adjacent to the Langans’ farm. Thalheimer Farms hired Valicopters, Inc. (defendant) to spray for Colorado beetle infestation using the pesticides Thiodan and Guthion. On one of the helicopter’s passes, the pilot began spraying while still over the Langans’ farm, coating the Langans’ tomatoes, beans, garlic, cucumbers, and Jerusalem artichokes. The FDA’s tolerance for Thiodan is 2 parts per million. The Langans’ tomatoes registered Thiodan residue of 1.4 parts per million. The level of residue was greater than that permitted by the association for organic growers. Consequently, the Langans destroyed their tomato and bean crops. The Langans sued Valicopters. At trial, the trial court instructed the jury that Valicopters was strictly liable for any damage to the Langans’ crops that was proximately caused by spraying. The jury found in favor of the Langans, awarding them damages of $5,500. Valicopters appealed. The court of appeals certified the case to the Supreme Court of Washington.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Dolliver J.)

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