A multidistrict litigation (MDL) court in Missouri has denied the defendants’ post-trial motions in the fourth bellwether trial involving claims that conventional rice farmers were adversely affected when contamination by genetically modified (GM) rice closed international markets to U.S. rice exports. In re Genetically Modified Rice Litig., MDL No. 1811 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Mo., E. Div., decided November 9, 2010). The court rejected arguments that the Plant Protection Act preempts the claims, the plaintiff could not recover market loss damages and future damages because they are too uncertain and speculative, the evidence supporting plaintiff’s alternative crop yield and crop variety damages was insufficient, and the plaintiff could not demonstrate legal cause and could not recover “landlord” damages.
According to the court, “Plaintiff demonstrated that Bayer unreasonably failed to contain the LL Rice and that the resulting contamination was the foreseeable cause of the loss of the European rice market and depressed rice prices.” The court also determined that the plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence to prove the company’s negligence and vicarious liability for the actions of those who field tested the GM rice. Holding that the defendant was not unfairly prejudiced by the introduction of evidence relating to the company’s experience with Star Link corn contamination, the court noted, “The fact that Bayer lost track of a large amount of seed in 2001 was relevant to show Bayer’s carelessness in handling LL Rice in 2001, which was approximately the same time that the evidence indicated that LL Rice escaped.”