Golf course manager suing DuPont over herbicide

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An Indianapolis-based golf course manager is leading a national class-action lawsuit charging that a herbicide manufactured by DuPont is killing trees and other vegetation.

R.N. Thompson Golf, which operates several area courses, including Gray Eagle, Ironwood, Winding Ridge, and Southern Dunes, said it has witnessed "catastrophic tree loss” after applying the herbicide Imprelis.

The two law firms representing the class-action suit, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein of San Francisco and Starr Austen & Miller of Logansport, announced the filing in a federal court in Delaware on Monday.

Their complaint alleges that Delaware-based DuPont failed to disclose the risks Imprelis poses to trees, even when applied as directed, and failed to provide instructions for safe application.   

Mario Massillamany, a lawyer at Starr Austen, estimated the damages to R.N. Thompson’s golf courses to be “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

R.N. Thompson began using the herbicide in late April and began noticing signs of destruction about a month later. Most of the heavy damage has occurred at Winding Ridge in Lawrence, where between 130 and 160 trees have died since Imprelis was applied, Massillamany said.

Trees have also suffered damage at Southern Dunes in Indianapolis and at Gray Eagle and Ironwood in Fishers.
“I don’t think there’s any way to stop the destruction,” Massillamany said. “Once it starts, it’s over.”

Lawyers said they’ve engaged a leading scientist in the fields of forest resources, tree physiology, and landscape management to further identify the cause and nature of the problem and to recommend steps property owners should take to preserve evidence.

“Even though it’s a new product, Imprelis has been widely adopted by landscapers and lawn-care specialists who believed DuPont’s claims that it is safe and an environmentally friendly herbicide,” said Jonathan Selbin, a lawyer at Lieff Cabraser, in a prepared statement. “Instead, the evidence is quickly piling up that Imprelis is attacking trees as if they are weeds.”

R.N. Thompson CEO Mark Thompson said the company has received numerous complaints and inquiries about the tree damage and appearance of its courses from customers.

“We filed this lawsuit to inform other businesses and homeowners about this problem to let them know there is reason their trees are dying and to give them a course of action to fix the problem,” Thompson said in a written statement.

R.N. Thompson is joined as a leading plaintiff in the lawsuit by a Pennsylvania homeowner who claims trees in her yard died after she sprayed the herbicide.

Plaintiffs are seeking compensation for the cost of replacing damaged trees and an injunction preventing DuPont from continuing to sell Imprelis.

Dupont began selling Imprelis last November as a high-concentration herbicide that kills tough-to-control lawn weeds such as clover and the vine known as "creeping Charlie." Imprelis costs about $750 per gallon, but it only takes about 4.5 ounces to treat an acre of lawn.

In mid-June, DuPont responded to mounting complaints about the use of Imprelis, saying: "Our turf development team has been investigating these reports and we are trying to better understand the circumstances and whether the various symptoms are related to applications of DuPont Imprelis herbicide. Our investigation is not complete and we will need your help in gathering necessary information and in determining what variables may have contributed to the symptoms being observed.”

A majority of the damage involves Norway spruce or white pine trees, which are common on golf courses. As a precaution, DuPont instructed users to avoid applying the herbicide where those types of trees are present.

This story originally ran in the July 19, 2011, IBJ Daily. The IBJ is a sister pubilcation of Indiana Lawyer.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.