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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. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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