Sherry Broder


Heptachlor: The $4 Million Sequel

February 1987

The 1982 discovery that the state's milk supply was contaminated with heptachlor has given rise to a whole nest of lawsuits. Thirteen Oahu dairies won a $28.4 million settlement from two pineapple growers, the heptachlor supplier and the cooperative which had supplied the contaminated "green chop" (processed pineapple tops) fed to the dairy cattle. Those parties have in turn sued the state of Hawaii for encouraging the use of green chop as cattle feed.

Of all the court actions, those most likely to benefit Island residents are the two lawsuits filed against Foremost and Meadow Gold by Honolulu attorney Sherry Broder.

No one knows how bad heptachlor is for people. When the milk was recalled in March '82, some studies suggested that it had been contaminated since the fall of 1980. There is clearly some danger. Heptachlor causes cancer in laboratory animals, and it affects unborn children, because it passes through the placenta to the fetus.

Broder has won a $ 1 million settlement from Foremost and another $3 million from Meadow Gold. The $4 million will be used for a medical monitoring program designed to discover what effects drinking contaminated milk had on Hawaii's population.

Broder's suits were not filed until a year after the milk recall. "I was waiting for one of the luminaries of the Honolulu bar to bring a case," she says, "but nobody did anything." Attornies may have been unwilling to take the case because, as Broder admits, "it looked economically unfeasible."

The problem was that the heptachlor had caused no immediately obvious harm. "We couldn't sue for personal injury," recalls Broder, "so what we did was sue for a refund of the cost of the milk. We only had 136 named defendants. How much milk could they have bought?" Fortunately, the dairies were finally willing to settle on a class basis, compensating all milk buyers.

"The lawsuit was very, very risky," admits Broder, who by the end of the suit had held off as many as 60 defense attorneys. "But I always believed we would win." Broder, working on contingency, was paid out of the settlements. Although contingency lawyers often collect half the settlement, Broder charged only for her hours.

The money is now in a court-supervised trust. Broder recently made a trip to New York to consult with a blue-ribbon panel of scientists who have agreed to advise her on the distribution of research funds. The first step will be "body burden" testing to find out just how much heptachlor is still lingering in the systems of Hawaii residents, particularly in children.

Broder believes the settlement was "the best possible one for the people of Hawaii." Over the years, she says, thousands of parents have called her, worried about children who were born during that period. "There's a possibility of real health risk," she insists. "But even if there isn't, it would be worth it to lay those fears to rest."

Contact Us

For a FREE First Consultation:

Phone: (808) 531-1411
Fax: (808) 543-2010

Seven Waterfront Plaza
Suite 400
500 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96813

Email Inquiry

Send Sherry a message