PARIS – A French court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Franco-Vietnamese woman against more than a dozen multinationals that produced and sold the toxic herbicide Agent Orange, used by US troops during the Vietnam War.
The landmark case, filed in 2014, pitted Tran To Nga, a 79-year-old woman who claims to be a victim of Agent Orange, against 14 companies, including US multinationals Dow Chemical and Monsanto, now owned by German giant Bayer. .
Tran To Nga confirmed to Reuters earlier media reports that the case was dismissed. She added that she would appeal the decision.
The former journalist described in a book how she breathed a bit of Agent Orange in 1966, when she was a member of the Vietnamese Communists, or Viet Cong, which fought against South Vietnam and the United States.
“Because of this, I lost a child to heart defects. I have two other daughters who were born with deformities. And my grandchildren too, ”she told The Associated Press.
Tran seeks damages for multiple health problems, including cancer, and those of her children in a legal proceeding which could be the first to compensate a Vietnamese victim, if the French court rules in her favor, according to an alliance of non-governmental organizations supporting his case.
So far, only military veterans from the United States and other countries involved in the war have received compensation. The French legal system allows citizens to sue events that have taken place abroad.
US forces used Agent Orange to defoliate Vietnamese jungles and destroy Vietnamese cultures during the war.
Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 11 million gallons of the chemical agent over large areas of southern Vietnam. Dioxin remains in the soil and in the sediment at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations. It can enter the food supply through the fat of fish and other animals.
Vietnam claims that as many as 4 million of its citizens have been exposed to the herbicide and as many as 3 million have suffered from it, including the children of people who were exposed during the war.
“This is where the crime lies, the tragedy because with Agent Orange, it doesn’t stop. It is passed from generation to generation, ”Tran said.
Bayer argues that all legal responsibility for Trans’s claims should rest with the United States, saying in a statement that Agent Orange was created “under the sole direction of the United States government for exclusively military purposes.”
Lawyers for Tran argued that the US government did not requisition the chemical but obtained it from the companies through a competitive bidding process.