LIHU‘E — A judge granted a motion to remove claim against a landowner in the case against a genetically modified seed grower on West Kaua‘i.
Chief Judge Randal Valenciano of the 5th Circuit granted a motion that removes a liability count against Gay & Robinson, Inc. as lessor’s in the civil suit against Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business and Iowa Corporation.
Attorney Robert Arthur Marks represented Gay & Robinson, and said there is no legitimate claim against the landowners based on statute. The scope against lessors narrows and places liability with the lessee who has control of the land, he said.
Attorneys Gerard Jervis and Kyle Smith, representing 17 West Kaua‘i resident plaintiffs, presented case law to argue for landlord liability against Gay & Robinson and its lessee, Robinson Family Partners, which in turn subleases to Pioneer Hi-Bred, for the acts of a tenant. They argued that a landlord with knowledge of dangers imposed by land practices is liable.
Jervis and Smith said they would file an amended motion to reinstate the charge against Robinson based on a recent deposition for a second case, in federal court, against Pioneer on behalf of another 150 Waimea residents. The case is based on the same facts, and the attorneys said they would request it to be remanded back to 5th Circuit to combine the cases.
Valenciano gave the attorneys until Nov. 7 to file their motions and responses.
Pioneer has leased fields east of Waimea since 1998 from Gay & Robinson and Robinson Family Partners. The fields are used to conduct open air testing of genetically modified crops as part of its Waimea Research Center.
The lawsuits allege that Pioneer’s practices in the farming of genetically modified seed crops on fields next to Waimea unlawfully allowed pesticides and pesticide-laden fugitive dust to blow into residents’ homes on almost a daily basis for more than 10 years.
The plaintiffs also allege that long-term, excessive exposure to dust and pesticides have resulted in reduced property values and physical damage to their homes.