Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Agriculture Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot a direct appeal challenging the circuit court's order declaring the Arkansas State Plant Board's dicamba cutoff rule as void and dismissed in part and reversed in part the cross appeal challenging the same order dismissing with prejudice certain farmers' complaint on the basis of the Board's sovereign immunity, holding that the Farmers' constitutional claims were not subject to the sovereign immunity defense. In 2017, the Board voted to ban the in-crop use of dicamba-based herbicides after April 15, 2018. The Farmers sought declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that the process by which Board members were appointed was unconstitutional. Thereafter, the new rule took effect, and the Board filed a motion to dismiss the Farmers' complaint. The circuit court granted the Board's motion to dismiss on the basis of sovereign immunity. However, the court determined that the Board's sovereign immunity violated the Farmers' due process rights, thus holding that the Board's rule was void ab initio and null and void as to the Farmers. The Supreme Court held (1) the Board's appeal was of the portion of the circuit court's order declaring the Board's rule establishing the cutoff date for the application of dicamba herbicides was moot; but (2) the Farmers' constitutional claims could proceed. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. McCarty" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court mooted in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the circuit court dismissing Monsanto Company's amended complaint against the Arkansas State Plant Board and its members (collectively, the Plant Board) on the basis of sovereign immunity, holding that portions of this matter were moot and, as to the remainder, sovereign immunity was inapplicable. In 2017, the Plant Board promulgated a rule that would prohibit in-crop use of dicamba herbicides during the 2018 growing season. Monsanto filed a complaint setting forth seven alleged claims against the Plant Board. Each of Monsanto's claims sought injunctive or declaratory relief for alleged illegal or unconstitutional activity by the Plant Board and did not seek an award of monetary damages in any respect. The circuit court granted the Plant Board's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the portions of the complaint that relate exclusively to the 2016 and 2017 promulgations were moot because the Plant Board has since promulgated a new set of regulations on pesticide use; and (2) Monsanto's claims were sufficiently developed as to properly allege ultra vires conduct, and under the circumstances, the Plant Board must address the merits of Monsanto's claims. View "Montsanto Co. v. Arkansas State Plant Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot the appeal brought by Appellants, the Arkansas State Plant Board and its director, challenging the circuit court's temporary restraining order (TRO) that enjoined the Plant Board from enforcing its agency rule limiting the use of dicamba herbicides after April 15, 2018, holding that because Appellants had since repealed and replaced this rule, the appeal was moot. While Appellants' appeal was pending, the Plant Board repealed and replaced the rule. The Supreme Court held that because the judgment on this appeal would have no practical legal effect on the TRO's enforceability, this interlocutory appeal is dismissed as moot. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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In this companion case to Arkansas State Plant Board v. Bell, __ S.W.3d __, which the Court handed down on May 23, 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal from the circuit court's temporary restraining order (TRO) that enjoined the Arkansas State Plant Board and its officers and members (collectively, the Plant Board) from enforcing its agency rule limiting the use of dicamba herbicides after April 15, 2018, holding that because the Plant Board had since repealed and replaced the rule and the TRO had expired by operation of law, the appeal was moot. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Appellants' appeal of the circuit court's temporary restraining order (TRO) that enjoined the Arkansas State Plant Board from enforcing its agency rule limiting the use of dicamba herbicides after April 16, 2018, holding that the appeal was moot. On April 16, 2018, thirty-seven Arkansas farmers who intended to use dicaamba herbicides in 2018 (Appellees), filed a complaint against the Plant Board seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The circuit court granted a TRO and enjoined the Plant Board from enforcing its April 15 cutoff date. The Plant Board appealed. On February 27, 2019, the Plant Board promulgated a new rule that repealed the April 15 cutoff date and took effect beginning March 9, 2019. The Supreme Court dismissed the interlocutory appeal as moot, holding that judgment on this appeal would have no practical effect upon the TRO's enforceability. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. Bell" on Justia Law

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After it was discovered that the American long-grain rice supply was contaminated with genetically modified rice developed by Bayer Holding, Inc., all of the federal lawsuits against Bayer were centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (MDL court). The MDL court appointed Appellees as a leadership group to coordinate pretrial preparations for the federal litigation. Appellants filed a complaint against Bayer, and the jury awarded Appellants $532,643 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. Before the entry of judgment, Appellees filed a motion to intervene seeking to collect eleven percent of Appellants' total recovery for placement in a common fund established to compensate the leadership group for its efforts. The court granted the complaint in intervention. On reconsideration, the circuit court adhered to its ruling creating a common-benefit fund in favor of Appellees. Appellants appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without prejudice for the lack of a proper certification under Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b), as the order being appealed was not final. View "Kyle v. Gray Ritter & Graham P.C." on Justia Law

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Bayer CropScience LP developed LibertyLink Rice (LLRice), a genetically engineered rice, which Bayer subsequently used in outdoor field tests. The USDA later found that trace amounts of LLRice in the U.S. long-grain rice supply. Due to the contamination, several countries slowed or banned the import of all American rice. Appellees, several rice farmers and farming entities, sued Bayer, claiming (1) Bayer was negligent in allowing the accidental release of LLRice into the nation's rice supply by not taking adequate precautions during field trials to prevent cross-pollination or the commingling of genetically modified rice seed with conventional seed; and (2) Bayer's negligence caused economic harm by driving down the market price for American long-grain rice. The circuit court awarded $5,975,605 in compensatory damages and $42,000,0000 in punitive damages to Appellees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) ruling that Ark. Code Ann. 16-55-208, which establishes limits on awards of punitive damages, is unconstitutional; (2) concluding that Appellees' claims were not barred by the economic-loss doctrine; (3) allowing certain expert testimony; and (4) rejecting Bayer's legal argument advanced in its motion for a directed verdict.