Tran To Nga v. Monsanto et al.

July 28, 2014
Final judgment
France, Evry

Mrs Tran To Nga
Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Other
William Bourdon, Charlotte Caen

Civil court
Herbicide, Dioxin, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4-D), 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4,5-T)
Obtain compensation for the damage suffered by the plaintiff as a result of Agent Orange
Court of Evry, France

May 10, 2021
The application is rejected.
No description

On May 10 2021, the Judicial Tribunal of Evry declared inadmissible the claim formulated by Tran To Nga, a franco-vietnamese journalist and activist, who sued 14 American companies accused of involvement in the production of "Agent Orange", a highly toxic defoliant to which she was directly exposed during the war of Vietnam.

Repeatedly exposed to Agent Orange while working as a journalist in Vietnam, Tran To Nga developed several serious pathologies. Her three daughters were indirect victims of this exposure, one of them dying from a heart defect.

In order to obtain compensation for the prejudice suffered before a French court, Tran To Nga had to argue that the defendant companies could not rely on the customary principle of State immunity from jurisdiction. This principle, which is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunity of States of December 2, 2004, to which France has been a party since 2011, implies that a sovereign State cannot be held responsible for its acts before the jurisdiction of another State. Jurisdictional immunity also applies to private individuals when they have acted on the orders of or on behalf of a State, and in the context of a sovereign action by said State.

In this case, Tran To Nga argues that the 14 American companies are liable for "negligence in the manufacture and supply of the agent", because they themselves determined the manufacturing methods for Agent Orange, retaining full knowledge of the product's toxicity, without informing the US government. Thus, they cannot be considered to have acted under duress on behalf of the US government and cannot invoke the principle of immunity from jurisdiction.

On the contrary, the 14 multinationals defendants argue that the deliveries of Agent Orange were ordered by the US government, which knew the true extent of the product's dangerousness. Having acted under orders and within the framework of a purely sovereign measure, they cannot be held liable by virtue of the jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by the State.

The court ruled finally in favor of the defendant companies. In its decision, the court referred in particular to the principle of jurisdictional immunity. Indeed, since the production and distribution of Agent Orange was a "requisition to which the defendant companies could not object", the 14 companies had indeed acted on behalf of and on order of the American State. Tran To Nga appealed this decision.