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French vineyard worker wins pesticide illness case

A former French vineyard worker who sued her chateau employer over illnesses allegedly caused by pesticides has won her case.

Sylvie Sorneau has waged a seven-year legal battle for recognition that pesticides she came into contact with at Chateau Monestier La Tour in Bergerac (pictured) were responsible for migraines, vomiting, nausea and vertigo that left her severely debilitated.

The case could mark an important precedent in France’s wine sector.

A Bordeaux court had already recognised the culpability of the employer in October 2013, but Chateau Monestier La Tour appealed the decision.

The chateau, which has come under new ownership since Sorneau’s employment, has now dropped its opposition, opening the way for financial compensation for both personal injury and a workplace accident. In France, this is paid largely by national social security.

‘This is the first time under French law that we have had this kind of result involving the agricultural industry and pesticides,’ Sorneau’s lawyer, Stephane Cottineau, told Decanter.com.

‘It is hugely important as it sets precedence for liability, and opens the way for other victims in similar situations to be recognised.’

Sorneau was hospitalised in Sainte-Foy-La-Grande in June 2007, after working in the vineyard less than 12 hours after a pesticide treatment had been applied. She told the court that she was no longer able to work.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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