IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release

June 16, 2003

No. 03-17

Contact:
Mokie Porter

(301) 585-4000 Ext.146


vva Gratified by supreme court decision
on agent orange litigation

(Washington, D.C.) – "We are extremely pleased at the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision that allows Vietnam veterans who are suffering from the devastating effects of exposure to Agent Orange to have access to the American justice system,” said VVA national president Thomas H. Corey.

On Monday, June 9, 2003, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Dow Chemical Company, et al. v .Stephenson, et al., which involved two Vietnam veterans whose current illnesses did not manifest until after all of the money that had been set aside under a legal settlement had been depleted.  In 1984, Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Chemical Co., the principal manufacturers of the chemical defoliant known as Agent Orange, settled a class- action lawsuit brought by Vietnam veterans whose illnesses were the result of their exposure to the herbicide.  Once the settlement funds had been exhausted, the Federal judge who presided over the original lawsuit refused to allow Vietnam veterans whose diseases were diagnosed thereafter to sue the chemical companies, ruling that such actions were barred by the earlier settlement.  Two of these veterans appealed their cases to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which held that their lawsuits could proceed because their interests were not adequately represented in the settled class action.

An association of business groups appealed the Second Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that allowing settled class actions to be reopened would deter future settlements.  With one justice abstaining, the Court returned one of the veteran’s cases to the Second Circuit with instructions to reconsider the matter in accordance with a recent Supreme Court opinion.  In the other veteran’s case, however, the remaining justices voted in a 4-4 split.  Corey explained, “The effect of the deadlocked vote is that the Supreme Court has affirmed the Second Circuit’s decision to allow more recently ill Vietnam veterans with Agent Orange-related diseases to exercise their Constitutional right to legal redress.”  Corey added, “Our regret is that it has taken such a long time for affected Vietnam veterans to receive the justice they deserve.”

VVA is one of several Congressionally-chartered veterans service organizations to have joined the Supreme Court action as a friend of the Court.

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

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