In 1999, the New York metropolitan area was sprayed with malathion to ward off West Nile virus, which is carried by mosquitoes. That same year, according to scientists, 90 percent of the lobsters in Long Island Sound died. Divers found millions of lobster carcasses littering the Sound. In some places, they were piled a foot deep on the ocean floor.
New York’s 200-year-old lobster fishing industry also died in 1999, as the Sound’s lobster population never recovered. In 2000, the Long Island Sound Lobstermen’s Association began talks with Jones Swanson’s founding member, Gladstone Jones, about bringing a lawsuit.
Mr. Jones promptly discovered several crucial facts about the case.
Most importantly, he discovered that malathion was lethal to lobsters.
He also found that many of the drums of malathion-based pesticides being used in New York were missing a legally-mandated label, which ought to have warned anyone handling them that the pesticide should not be used “around bodies of water where fish or shellfish are grown and/or harvested commercially.”
He learned that, in 1999, heavy rains had washed the malathion that was sprayed around the New York area into Long Island Sound.
In 2000, Mr. Jones brought a class-action lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York on behalf of Connecticut and New York lobstermen’s associations. The suit alleged that Cheminova, the company that manufactured the pesticide sprayed in the New York area, had mislabeled and mishandled their product, resulting in the deaths of millions of lobsters.
The class was certified by the trial court and upheld by a court of appeals. Just before the case went to trial, Cheminova, as well as several secondary defendants, agreed to a settlement.