A jury in Woodruff County Circuit Court in Arkansas has ruled in favor of Lenny Joe Kyle, an Arkansas rice farmer, in the third bellwether case against Bayer Cropscience. The jury decided Bayer Cropscience must pay more than $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages for the losses sustained by Kyle due to the contamination of his rice supply by Bayer’s experimental variety of genetically modified (GMO) rice. The jury awarded Kyle $532,643 in compensatory damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages.
This is the third in a series of bellwether trials. All of the trials have resulted in a victory for the plaintiffs but the Kyle verdict is the first in which punitive damages have been awarded and also the first to be resolved in a state court. In the two previous trials, federal juries in St. Louis awarded a total of $3.5 million to rice farmers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri.
Another case against Bayer is set to begin in March in Lonoke County Circuit Court. Scott Powell, who was on the trial team in the second bellwether trial (Penn v. Bayer) in Federal Court in St. Louis, is representing 12 plaintiffs in the on-going rice trial in Lonoke County, Arkansas.
“The rice farmers are batting 1.000 against Bayer,” states Powell, “and we have no reason to think the outcome in this trial will be different. Conscientious juries have now considered all of the evidence, along with every defense Bayer has to offer found Bayer guilty of negligently contaminating the commercial supply U. S. Long Grain rice. The juries are coming back in a matter of hours. It’s clear that the juries have ample evidence showing Bayer is liable and only need sufficient time to total up the damages.”
Despite assurances from Bayer Cropscience about the safety of their genetically altered product, the markets reacted badly. The European Union and many foreign countries that routinely buy rice from the United States will not accept genetically engineered food crops. When the contamination was announced in August 2006, rice prices plunged and the reduction in U.S. rice exports had significant and far-reaching impact on the rice farmers in Arkansas and surrounding states. “We represent more than 1,500 rice farmers in Arkansas who deserve compensation for their economic losses,” states Powell. “They have suffered in the past, this month, next month and on into the future and we have every confidence the men and women who comprise the juries will recognize these losses and rule in favor of the farmers in this rice litigation.