2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

Farmers alleged that “herbicide drift” from aerial spraying damaged 111 cotton fields. The trial court struck the farmers’ causation experts and dismissed the case. An intermediate appellate court ruled the trial court should not have struck them, but the Texas Supreme Court determined the trial court was correct and again dismissed the case.

In upholding the dismissal, the Supreme Court identified several deficiencies in the work of the farmers’ experts, suggesting each deficiency would have justified dismissing the case.

Inadequate Exposure Evidence
The farmers’ experts did not establish or provide a reasonable model of the amount of herbicide that drifted onto the individual fields, nor did they provide an amount of herbicide that would lead to decreased cotton yield. Without knowing how much exposure would lead to decreased yield or how much herbicide reached the farmers’ fields, the factfinder “could not even begin to reasonably determine” that the herbicide caused decreased yields.

Failure to Address Alternative Causes
The farmers could not exclude alternative causes with reasonable certainty, nor could they show the herbicide was a “substantial factor” in causing their damage, in light of other possible causes. For example, many of the farmers applied for insurance benefits, alleging weather caused the same decreased yield. Further, non-defendants sprayed in the area, some with the same herbicide and some with other herbicides known to damage cotton. The farmers’ experts made no attempt to examine the damage other spraying might have caused and certainly no attempt to compare the expected damage from other spraying and weather to the possible damage from the spraying at issue in the case.

To see the opinion https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1455952/200881.pdf