VENTURA COUNTY (California) STAR

March 4, 2017

 

Lawsuit claims pesticides caused child's health issues

 

By Kathleen Wilson

A 9-year-old Oxnard boy is suing several agricultural firms over serious health problems his lawyers claim he suffered in utero because his farmworker mother was exposed to pesticides in an allegedly negligent and reckless manner.

In a trial scheduled to get underway shortly in Ventura County Superior Court, his attorneys are attempting to prove that Erik Joe Morales was injured because he was exposed to hazardous pesticides during crucial periods of fetal growth.

The boy was diagnosed with hemifacial microsomia two months after his birth in November 2007. That is a condition in which the lower half of one side of the face is underdeveloped and does not grow normally, according to the National Craniofacial Association. The cause is unknown and the condition occurs sporadically, according to a medical report on the child from Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

The child also suffered hearing loss along with cognitive and developmental delays, attorney David Bricker said.

Originally filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2015, the case was transferred to Ventura County last year and is just now coming to trial.

The lawsuit claims the pesticides were applied during normal business hours while farm laborers were working, that the laborers were not given any protective equipment and that they were not warned of the hazard. Erik's mother, Eulalia Lopez-Gomez, will testify during the trial, Bricker said.

Named as defendants are strawberry producer Well-Pict Berries; grower Soilfume Inc., which is also known as Anacapa Berry Farms; Well-Pict's owner T.T. Miyasaka Inc.; and Ramco Enterprises, a labor contractor.

Attorneys for the defendants declined comment after a hearing on pretrial motions Wednesday at the Ventura County courthouse. Lane E. Webb, who represents Miyasaka, said Thursday that rules of professional conduct prevented him from commenting on a case in active litigation.

In a response to the original complaint, Ramco denied all allegations and said the case was defective based on various legal grounds.

The lawsuit says the child was severely and permanently injured, was forced to endure extensive pain and suffered emotional, psychological and physical injury and distress.

Bricker intends to present testimony from specialists in pesticide exposure, assuming Superior Court Judge Kent Kellegrew allows it.

Bricker said no organizations are funding the lawsuit. He indicated that his law firm, Waters Kraus & Paul, is paying for it. The El Segundo firm specializes in toxic exposure litigation, including birth injuries, he said.

Damages of an unspecified amount are being sought for medical expenses, loss of earnings and punitive reasons, the lawsuit said.