27 F.3d 1021 (5th Cir. 1994), 93-4817, MacDonald v. Monsanto Co.

Docket Nº:93-4817.
Citation:27 F.3d 1021
Party Name:Charles MACDONALD, et ux and State of Louisiana, Etc., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. MONSANTO CO., et al., Defendants, Dow Chemical Co., et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:July 20, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 1021

27 F.3d 1021 (5th Cir. 1994)

Charles MACDONALD, et ux and State of Louisiana, Etc.,



MONSANTO CO., et al., Defendants,

Dow Chemical Co., et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 93-4817.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

July 20, 1994

Page 1022

Terry Lynn Jacobson, Dawson & Sodd, Corsicana, TX, Beth L. Law, Dow Elanco, Indianapolis, IN, for Dow Chemical Co.

David B. Gaultney, Mehaffy & Weber, Beaumont, TX, for Chevron.

Lawrence S. Ebner, McKenna & Cuneo, Washington, DC, for amicus, Nat. Agr. Chemicals Assoc.

Jon B. Burmeister, Ethan L. Shaw, Burmeister & Hulett, Beaumont, TX, for MacDonald.

Thomas J. Solari, Woodley, Williams, Fenet, Palmer, Boudreau & Norman, Lake Charles, LA, for Louisiana State.

Dale Dowell, Rienstra, Dowell & Flatten, Beaumont, TX, for American Optical.

Arthur H. Bryant, Anne W. Bloom, Washington, DC, for amicus, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Before JOHNSON, GARWOOD, and JOLLY, Circuit Judges.

E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge:

This appeal raises the question of whether the labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act ("FIFRA"), 7 U.S.C. Secs. 136-136y (1980 & Supp.1993), preempt parallel state law labeling requirements. Because we find that FIFRA does indeed preempt state laws that are "different from or in addition" to FIFRA requirements, we reverse the district court's denial of summary judgment, and render judgment on this issue in favor of the defendants.


Plaintiff-appellee Charles MacDonald, a chemical sprayer for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, suffered serious personal injuries allegedly caused by the phenoxy herbicide 2,4-D, which is produced by several different chemical companies. This herbicide was packaged in containers bearing labels approved by the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") pursuant to FIFRA requirements. MacDonald and his wife sued the chemical companies in Texas state court, claiming, inter alia, that the chemical companies failed, under state law, to label properly the herbicide and thereby failed, under state law, to warn

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him adequately of the dangers associated with 2,4-D. The defendants timely removed the suit to federal district court on diversity of citizenship grounds, and then moved for summary judgment, arguing that FIFRA preempts all state laws affecting labeling requirements. According to the defendants, because they complied with FIFRA labeling requirements (a fact uncontested in this appeal), and because FIFRA preempts state labeling requirements, they were entitled to summary judgment in their favor on the labeling issue. The district court disagreed, however, and denied their motion for summary judgment, 813 F.Supp. 1258. The court held that the word "requirements" in Sec. 136v(b) addressed only statutory or regulatory requirements--not common law requirements. See Ferebee v. Chevron Chemical Co., 736 F.2d 1529 (D.C.Cir.1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1062, 105 S.Ct. 545, 83 L.Ed.2d 432 (1984). Thus, the district court concluded that the MacDonald's state common law causes of action based on improper labeling and failure to warn were not preempted by FIFRA. Recognizing, however, that "there were substantial grounds for difference of opinion on the issue of preemption," the district court certified the issue for interlocutory appeal. Defendants-appellants Chevron Chemical Company and Ortho Products Division of Chevron Chemical Company (referred to collectively as "Chevron"), and Dow Chemical Company ("Dow") appeal the district court's denial of summary judgment. We granted this interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1292(b) (1993).


We review de novo a district court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment. FDIC v. Myers, 955 F.2d 348, 349 (5th Cir.1992). In this case, the parties agree that there are no disputed fact questions; the sole issue presented for our consideration is purely a question of law. This issue--an issue of first impression in this circuit--is whether, under the lights of the recently decided Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992), FIFRA preempts state common law damage claims based upon a chemical manufacturer's failure properly to label herbicides and pesticides, and properly to warn of dangers associated with their use.


Dow and Chevron contend that FIFRA labeling requirements preempt state law requirements that relate to labeling. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution invalidates any state laws that "interfere with, or are contrary to" federal laws. U.S. CONST. art. VI, cl. 2. Because of the Supremacy Clause, a state law that conflicts with federal law is "without effect." Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, 501 U.S. 597, 605-07, 111 S.Ct. 2476, 2482, 115 L.Ed.2d 532 (1991); Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 746, 101 S.Ct. 2114, 2128-29, 68 L.Ed.2d 576 (1981). We begin our consideration of preemption questions with the presumption that historic police powers of the states are not superseded by federal law. Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230, 67 S.Ct. 1146, 1152, 91 L.Ed. 1447 (1947). The police powers at issue here--health and safety matters--are matters that historically have been areas of state regulation. See Hillsborough County v. Automated Medical Labs., Inc., 471 U.S. 707, 715-16, 105 S.Ct. 2371, 2376, 85 L.Ed.2d 714 (1985). This presumption against federal preemption of such state law may be overcome if Congress intended that the federal law preempt state law. Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. at 230, 67 S.Ct. at 1152. As the Supreme Court recently noted in Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc.,

Congress' intent may be explicitly stated in the statute's language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose. In the absence of an express congressional command, state law is pre-empted if that law actually conflicts with federal law, or if federal law so thoroughly occupies a legislative field as to make...

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