by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Supreme Court today upheld a nearly $50 million verdict in Lonoke County for farmers who said they were damaged when genetically altered rice from the Bayer CropScience. contaminated their crops.
Importantly, the court upheld a finding that a statutory cap on punitive damages, which constituted $42 million of this $48 millionverdict, was unconstitutional. The decision was unanimous, except that Justice Karen Baker, in concurring with the decision, said there wasn't sufficient basis in the circuit court ruling to decide the issue of constitutionality of the statute.
I don't think I venture too far out on a limb to say that rulings upholding $42 million punitive damage awards are the sorts of things that build enthusiasm in the business community to build war chests to elect dependably pro-business judges, as has happened in other states.
EVIDENCE: Sen. Gilbert Baker has already whipped out a statement decrying the decision. He's long been a front man for business interests, such as in anti-union efforts.