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Jury awards Kauai residents more than $500K in dust lawsuit

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal court jury has awarded more than $500,000 to 15 Kauai residents who say they can’t enjoy their homes because of red dust from test fields operated by DuPont Pioneer.

The seven-member jury on Friday awarded $191,315 for property damage and $315,775 for loss of use and enjoyment of property.

The Waimea residents filed lawsuits in 2011 and 2012 against the seed company formerly called Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. They said red dust from the company’s Waimea Research Center field caused extensive damage to their properties.

Company officials are disappointed in the verdict and plan to evaluate their options in coming days, DuPont Pioneer spokeswoman Laurie Yoshida said.

The residents’ attorney, Patrick Kyle Smith, said he was elated for his clients. “We hope it makes things better in Waimea,” said Smith outside the courtroom.

The verdict said DuPont Pioneer failed to follow generally accepted agricultural and management practices from Dec. 13, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2011. The jurors found the “seriousness of the harm to each plaintiff outweighs the public benefit of Pioneer’s farming operation.”

The verdict covered 15 of the 16 residents who testified during the trial. The jury did not award one resident damages because he didn’t “own, lease, occupy or controlled the property.”

It’s unclear whether other Waimea residents will be awarded damages. More than 100 residents were named in the lawsuit filed in 2011 against DuPont Pioneer.

The award for property damage for each resident was based on the square footage of the residents’ floor plans, which the jury used as reference.

At the beginning of the trial, when residents alluded to health effects they link to the dust, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi reminded their attorneys that the cases were about property damage, loss of enjoyment of property and emotional stress — not physical effects.

 

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