Indiana Jury Awards $23M in Pesticide Misuse Case

September 20, 2010

A southern Indiana jury has awarded $23.5 million to a family whose lawsuit alleged that pesticides sprayed in their apartment afflicted two children with severe neurological problems.

The Floyd County jury’s verdict came 14 years after Todd and Cynthia Ebling sued Prestwick Square Apartments and its management company over their children’s illnesses.

The couple, now-divorced, alleged in a 1996 lawsuit that their children, Christina and Alex, fell ill with seizures caused by a pesticide sprayed in their New Albany apartment in the mid-1990s.

“It’s been devastating. Our lives will never be the same,” Cynthia Ebling told The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.

After four-week trial that began Aug. 17, the jury returned its verdict on Sept. 16, finding that pesticides caused the Eblings children’s illnesses.

The jury awarded $500,000 each to Todd and Cynthia Ebling, $16 million to their daughter, Christina Ebling, and $6.5 million to their son, Alex Ebling.

Telephone messages left at the office and home of Prestwick Square attorney Richard Mullineaux were not immediately returned.

In February 1994, the couple and their children moved into Prestwick Square. Later that year, both youngsters were hospitalized with seizures and other neurological problems.

The couple moved from the apartment unit in January 1995.

The Eblings’ attorneys say the children’s problems were caused by exposure to Creal-O, a chemical based on the pesticide Diazinon. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the pesticide for residential use in 2004.

Roger Pardieck, the attorney who filed the suit for the Eblings, said the chemical was applied in the wrong way, even though it was legal for residential use at the time.

“There was more applied than should have been applied, and it was applied in a careless manner,” Pardieck said.

He said it was applied “on the baseboards, ran down onto the carpeting (and) splashed up on the wall coverings. That’s a misapplication.”

Cynthia Ebling said her two children “haven’t been the same since the first seizure” after they came in contact with the pesticides.

Christina Ebling, now 20, is developmentally no more than a 2-year-old, she said.

“She can feed herself, but that’s about it,” her mother said. “She can’t dress herself, undress herself, brush her teeth, brush her hair, shower herself – basically everything but feeding has to be done by somebody else.”

Alex, now 17 and an 11th-grader, has athletic physical ability but is delayed academically and socially, his parents said.

“He’s a big follower and really doesn’t know how to distrust anybody or doesn’t know how to judge somebody whether they’re good or bad,” Todd Ebling said.

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