On January 31, 2020, Pierce Couch attorneys Bryan E. Stanton, Carson C. Smith, and Charlie A. Schreck obtained a favorable verdict in Adair County District Court after a week-long trial involving claims of agricultural negligence. Plaintiff alleged at trial that in February 2017, his cattle were exposed to metal-contaminated feed, which caused a theoretical risk of an undetermined future injury. According to Plaintiff, this risk diminished the value of about 132 cows and 3 bulls. Plaintiff’s minimum claimed economic damage was $360,000, the purported cost to replace the herd. Defendant took ownership of the metal exposure just months into the case and, as a result, the primary issue in the case was whether an exposure – without any physical injury – actually damaged the value of Plaintiff’s herd.
During the Defendant’s case-in-chief, defense counsel secured a stipulation from Plaintiff in the form of an agreed jury instruction stating that he was not claiming physical injury or physical impairment to any of the cattle herd. This likely assisted the jury in its determination. Ultimately, the unanimous 12 person jury placed 20% negligence on Plaintiff and awarded Plaintiff a fraction of the sought damages. The reduced award, $42,400, was far less than previously offered to resolve the claim. In fact, it was almost half of an Offer to Confess made in 2018. The nominal award was in spite of the fact that the jurors were not given instructions about mitigation, but were provided multiple punitive damage instructions. Further, Defendant was not permitted to put on evidence about the physical condition of Plaintiff’s cattle, even though testing from October 2019 showed many of the cows had conditions unrelated to potential metal ingestion.
The verdict was the culmination of about three years of litigation wherein opposing counsel over-aggressively pursued multiple theories of liability, including the one stipulated as no longer being claimed during the trial. For more information about Pierce Couch’s agricultural claim defense team, please contact Mr. Stanton, Mr. Smith, or Mr. Schreck at 405-235-1611.