A French court on Monday is due to rule in a case against 14 firms over the production or sale of the highly toxic Agent Orange defoliant to the United States during the Vietnam War.
The case was brought forward by a French woman of Vietnamese origin against the companies, including US agrochemical firm Monsanto, now owned by German giant Bayer.
Military veterans from the US, Australia and Korea previously won compensation for the after-effects of Agent Orange. But a verdict in favor of a Vietnamese victim would set a precedence.
Who is the plaintiff?
Tran To Nga filed the lawsuit, blaming the companies for injuries sustained by her, her children and countless others Vietnamese victims.
Tran worked as a journalist and activist in Vietnam in her 20s. She said she was suffering from Agent Orange effects, including type 2 diabetes and an extremely rare insulin allergy.
The 79-year-old also said she contracted tuberculosis twice, developed cancer and one of her daughters died due to a heart malformation. She described the case as “the last fight” of her life.
What about the defendants?
The multinationals argued that the use of the chemical agent was the solely US military’s responsibility.
A Bayer representative was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that “suppliers during the war” were not responsible.
They also rejected the jurisdiction of the court. A lawyer for Monsanto said the US had deployed Agent Orange in the interest of “national defense.”
What is Agent Orange?
For over a decade, the US military sprayed tens of millions of liters of the defoliant chemical to stop the advances of communist North Vietnamese troops and deprive enemy combatants of food sources during the war.
Millions of people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were exposed to Agent Orange.
Generations of children continue to be born with a high incidence of disability, including down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and extreme facial disfigurement. Such effects are believed to be linked to the chemical.
AFP contributed to this article.