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Judge rules in Ecolab's favor
LAKE CHARLES, LA - On July 5, 2005, Magistrate Alonzo P. Wilson of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana entered summary judgment in favor of Ecolab Inc. and dismissed the claims of two nurses who alleged that their exposure to fumes of an Ecolab institutional floor wax stripper containing glycol ethers caused their two babies to suffer from the fatal birth defect anencephaly.
In 2003, Plaintiffs Nicole Babin and Melissa Smith worked together as nurses at Christus St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana. In late Spring or early Summer 2003, the women became pregnant. They claim that, after they became pregnant, they were exposed to fumes from Care Strip LO, an institutional floor wax stripper manufactured and sold by Ecolab and used by hospital maintenance personnel in the areas where the women worked. Months later, the babies were diagnosed with anencephaly, a fatal birth defect that prevents the development of the fetal brain. In 2004, Plaintiffs sued Ecolab, claiming that the women’s exposure to the glycol ethers in Care Strip LO caused the babies’ anencephaly. Plaintiffs sought $4.5 million in damages.
Based upon well-established medical, toxicological, and epidemiological data and principles, Ecolab denied that Care Strip LO played any role whatsoever in the development of the anencephaly. After taking the depositions of Ms. Babin, Ms. Smith, and their husbands, Ecolab moved for summary judgment, arguing that, as a matter of law, Care Strip LO and the glycol ethers it contains do not cause anencephaly, and did not cause the anencephaly in Plaintiffs’ babies. Plaintiffs opposed Ecolab’s motion, relying upon a report from California toxicologist James G. Dahlgren, M.D., who suggested that exposure to some forms of glycol ether has been associated with an increased risk of birth defects.
Finding that Dr. Dahlgren’s opinions about causation were "little more than speculation," Judge Wilson ruled, "There is no summary judgment evidence purporting to connect the specific glycol ethers found in Defendant’s product with anencephaly or any other defect in developing human embryos." Judge Wilson dismissed the case with prejudice.
Case name: Nicole Babin et al. v. Ecolab Inc.
Attorneys for the Plaintiffs: Roger G. Burgess and Erin M. Alley, BAGGETT, McCALL, BURGESS, WATSON & GAUGHAN, PLC, Lake Charles, Louisiana
Attorneys for the Defense: Richard G. Morgan, John D. Sear, Bowman and Brooke LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Robert E. Landry, Scofield, Gerard, Singletary & Pohorelsky, Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Expert for the Plaintiffs: James G. Dahlgren, M.D. (toxicology), James Dahlgren Medical/Envirotoxicology, Santa Monica, California
Experts for the Defense: None
Judge: Honorable Alonzo P. Wilson,. United States Magistrate Judge
Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
Case number: 2:04-cv-01595-APW