The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed a nearly $50 million verdict for farmers who say they lost money because a company's genetically altered rice seeds contaminated the food supply and drove down crop prices.
Bayer, the German conglomerate whose Bayer CropScience subsidiary produced the seeds, had argued that Arkansas tort laws set a limit on punitive damages and that courts should set aside jury awards that "shock the conscience." In the April 2010 verdict, a Lonoke County jury awarded $42 million in punitive damages and $5.9 million in actual damages.
The company said a lower court erred last year in ruling that a cap on punitive damages is unconstitutional.
But in its 24-page opinion released Thursday, the state Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that the cap on punitive damages was unconstitutional. Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson wrote that the cap "limits the amount of recovery outside the employment relationship," while the Arkansas constitution only allows limits on compensation paid by employers to employees.