Dow Chemical Company v. Stephenson

PETITIONER: Dow Chemical Company
RESPONDENT: Stephenson
LOCATION: White House

DOCKET NO.: 02-271
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 539 US 111 (2003)
ARGUED: Feb 26, 2003
DECIDED: Jun 09, 2003

ADVOCATES:
Gerson H. Smoger - Argued the cause for the respondents
Patrick Lysaught - for the Defense Research Institute as amicus curiae
Seth P. Waxman - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

In 1984 Dow Chemical Co. negotiated a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed by Vietnam War veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange and subsequently developed various injuries and illnesses. The settlement created a fund that would pay those who developed illnesses up until 1994. Daniel Stephenson, a Vietnam veteran, developed cancer in 1998 and could therefore not collect money from the fund. He sued, saying that he was not adequately represented in the original settlement, which made no provision for injuries that developed after 1994. Therefore, he claimed, he had the right to file a suit of his own. The district court ruled for Dow Chemical; the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed, ruling for Stephenson.

Question

Does the 1984 Agent Orange settlement preclude plaintiffs, who allege that they were inadequately represented in the prior litigation, from asserting claims?

Media for Dow Chemical Company v. Stephenson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 2003 in Dow Chemical Company v. Stephenson

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 09, 2003 in Dow Chemical Company v. Stephenson

William H. Rehnquist:

I also have the opinion of the Court to announce in No. 02-271, Dow Chemical Company versus Daniel Raymond Stephenson.

With respect to respondents Joe Isaacson and Phyllis Liza Isaacson, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is vacated and the case is remanded for further consideration in the light of our opinion last fall in Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. versus Henson.

With respect to respondents, Daniel Raymond Stephenson, Susan Stephenson, Daniel Anthony Stephenson, and Emily Elizabeth Stephenson, the judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.

Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.