Bates v. Dow Agrosciences L.L.C

In Bates v. Dow Agrosciences L.L.C., 544 U.S. 431 (U.S. 2005), the Supreme Court was asked to determine whether the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act ("FIFRA") preempted a state law claim for damages in a case involving pesticide labeling requirements. In finding that plaintiff's claims were not preempted, the Court noted that there is a longstanding presumption "that Congress does not cavalierly preempt state-law causes of action." Bates, 544 U.S. at 449, 125 S. Ct. at 1801. The powers of the states are not superceded by federal law unless that was the "clear and manifest" purpose of Congress. Id. at 1802. The Court also explained that "if Congress had intended to deprive injured parties of a long available form of compensation, it surely would have expressed that intent more clearly." Id. at 1801. The Supreme Court held that for a common law cause of action to be preempted by the FIFRA, "it must impose a labeling or packaging requirement that is 'in addition to or different from those required under this subchapter.' " Id. Moreover, the Court noted that in evaluating whether a particular cause of action would impose additional or different labeling requirements, a "state law need not explicitly incorporate FIFRA's standards as an element of a cause of action in order to survive pre-emption." Id. at 447. "In undertaking a pre-emption analysis at the pleadings stage of a case, a court should bear in mind the concept of equivalence. To survive pre-emption, the state-law requirement need not be phrased in the identical language as its corresponding FIFRA requirement ... ." Id. at 454. The Supreme Court in Bates also held that common law tort claims that do not involve labeling or packaging requirements are not preempted by the FIFRA. Id. at 444. In order for a common law cause of action to be preempted by the FIFRA, it must impose "a requirement 'for labeling or packaging'; rules governing the design of a product, for example, are not pre-empted." Id. The Court elaborated on this point, stating: "Rules that require manufacturers to design reasonably safe products, to use due care in conducting appropriate testing of their products, to market products free of manufacturing defects, and to honor their express warranties or other contractual commitments plainly do not qualify as requirements for "labeling or packaging." None of these common-law rules requires that manufacturers label or package their products in any particular way. Thus, petitioners' claims for defective design, defective manufacture, negligent testing, and breach of express warranty are not pre-empted." Id.