A multidistrict litigation (MDL) court in Missouri has issued a number of rulings on motions for summary judgment and to exclude or limit expert testimony in the bellwether cases involving Texas rice farmers who allege that contamination of the U.S. rice supply with genetically modified (GM) rice caused a precipitous decline in prices for their crops on world markets. In re Genetically Modified Rice Litig., MDL No. 1811 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Mo., E. Div., decided October 4, 2010).
The court’s pre-trial rulings are similar to its rulings in previous bellwether trials involving farmers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri. The court determined, among other matters, that (i) the Texas farmers could not sue for violation of a North Carolina statute; (ii) the economic loss doctrine did not bar the plaintiffs’ claims; (iii) the plaintiffs could pursue claims for private nuisance but not for public nuisance; (iv) the defendants cannot assert as a defense that they complied with all GM statutes and regulations or that they complied with state-of-the-art industry standards; (v) the defendants cannot assert the affirmative defense of intervening cause; and (vi) the plaintiffs may seek punitive damages.