A federal court in Missouri has determined that Texas plaintiffs alleging injury from the contamination of conventional rice crops with genetically modified (GM) rice had no reasonable basis to join non-diverse defendants and thus denied their motion to remand to state court. In re Genetically Modified Rice Litig., MDL No. 1811 (E.D. Mo., decided March 24, 2009). The 34 cases at issue were transferred from Texas to the Missouri court along with some 200 others from four other states as part of a multidistrict litigation proceeding. Rice farmers allege that the GM rice contamination adversely affected the global market for their products.

The Texas plaintiffs sued the GM seed rice company and its affiliates, citizens of states other than Texas, and also sued a Texas rice grower and his affiliated companies alleging that he negligently grew the GM rice and contaminated neighboring fields or sold them GM seed rice. Plaintiffs can prevent removal to federal court by joining non-diverse defendants.

Defendants removed the cases to federal court and opposed the motion to remand, arguing that the Texas defendants had been fraudulently joined to defeat diversity jurisdiction. The court agreed, finding no factual basis for the allegation that the Texas defendants ever tested or grew the GM seed that allegedly caused plaintiffs’ losses. According to the court, if the Texas defendants did plant GM seed, they did so
inadvertently or used a GM seed that had been approved for human consumption and was not part of the plaintiffs’ case.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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