Families of Hawaii Children Born with Life-Threatening Birth Defects Sue Monsanto

Max Coleman’s mother thought she had the perfect place to raise a family. Unfortunately, the beautiful cornfield she and her family lived 500 yards from was a test area for genetically modified crops that were regularly sprayed with high levels of toxic pesticides. These pesticides allegedly caused 17-year-old Max and another local, 28-year-old Dana Fulton, to be born with severe birth defects.

Max was born with hydronephrosis, swelling of the kidneys, as well as severe asthma and ADHD. Dana was born with esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula, conditions in which her esophagus was not properly connected to her windpipe or stomach. She required multiple major and minor surgeries as an infant to attach her esophagus, and still uses a tracheostomy tube to breathe.

Max’s and Dana’s families are suing Monsanto and parent company Bayer, saying their birth defects are linked to use of pesticides on Monsanto’s Mokulele corn fields in Kihei, Maui.

Pesticide Use Is Rampant in Hawaii

Hawaii is considered paradise, with its warm climate, laid-back lifestyle, and outdoor recreation opportunities. It’s also a treasure trove of fruits, vegetables, and other foods people pay a pretty penny for on the mainland. Additionally, the state is used to test many genetically modified food crops because of its long growing season and highly fertile volcanic soil — in fact, it hosts the most genetically engineered crop tests in the United States.

These agricultural products can come with a price. Pesticides are often used in the growing process to control pests both native and invasive that can damage and even destroy crops, especially on test seeds. And many of these pesticides have damaging effects on agricultural workers and the people who live near the growing areas, including life threatening birth defects such as those reported by Dana Fulton and Max Coleman.

Families Fight Back Against Monsanto for Causing Birth Defects

In filing a lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer, Dana Fulton’s and Max Coleman’s families are saying on the record that exposure to these pesticides caused their rare illnesses. They also assert that Monsanto knew the chemicals were dangerous, especially when a residential neighborhood was so close to the fields where the pesticides were used.

Dana underwent many major and minor surgeries when she was an infant to correct the issues with her esophagus. As a result, she spent nine months in the hospital and eight years working with speech and physical therapists. And as mentioned earlier, as a result of her birth defect, she must use a tracheostomy tube all the time just so she can breathe.

Max, who was raised by his single mother, had to fly multiple times to the island of Oahu to receive medical treatment. “It’s been rough for us,” she said.

To help these families seek justice from Monsanto, they are receiving legal representation from the Birth Defects Victims attorney alliance, including Waters Kraus & Paul, Galiher DeRobertis and Waxman along with Thornton Law Firm and Phillips & Paolicelli.

One of the attorneys, Ilana Waxman, told reporters that Monsanto had been testing genetically modified crops and seeds on the fields near Max’s and Dana’s homes for more than 30 years. “Monsanto in spraying these large amounts of restricted use pesticide on these fields was very well aware that there was a residential neighborhood immediately downwind and very well aware that the trade winds would carry these pesticides into the neighborhood,” she said.

These pesticides, which are used at 17 times the national average in Hawaii, require specific permitting and have special rules for their application to prevent overspray into residential areas and exposure by agricultural workers.

How We Help Victims of Pesticide Exposure

The attorneys of our birth defects victims alliance understand the pain that families face when coping with life-altering birth defects—and the frustration of knowing they could have been prevented. Our team has over 30 years of combined experience in birth defects litigation in cases involving pesticide exposure. We have the resources and experience to fight on behalf of our clients against corporations who put them in danger. Call us to see how we can help you and your family receive justice for birth defects.