The Third Circuit Court of Appeal has reversed the awards handed down by a St. Landry Parish jury to three crawfish buyer/processors. The ruling strips Patrick E. Phillips Jr., James Bernard, and Lisa Guillory of awards of $900,000, $750,000, and $100,000, respectively, and does not bode well for future lawsuits.
The case has its genesis in 1999 when farmers in St. Landry and elsewhere began using a product called ICON to coat the rice seed to prevent rice weevils from the destroying the crop. But the product, manufactured by Bayer Crop Science, had an unforeseen side effect: It sterilized the crawfish, which are an important by-product of rice farming and a source of income for rice farmers. The sterilization of the crawfish dealt a blow to the crawfish crop. The rice/crawfish farmers affected by ICON settled with Bayer and with other defendants.
Enter the second link in the chain that leads from crawfish in the field to crawfish boiling in a pot: the middle men who buy the crawfish from the rice farmers and process the crustacean crop for sale to restaurants and markets. More than 70 such buyer/processors tried to combine for a class-action lawsuit, but were unable to certify the class, leaving Phillips, Bernard and Guidry as so-called “bellwether” plaintiffs, in effect functioning as a test case for a later class-action lawsuit. In 2007, the trio’s legal team convinced a civil jury in the 27th Judicial District in Opelousas that buyers/processors also suffered losses in the inadvertent sterilization of crawfish, leading to the damage awards.
However, writing for a 4-1 majority on the Third Circuit, Judge Elizabeth A. Pickett says, “the plaintiffs in this case have failed to prove a proprietary interest in the crawfish crop destroyed by the use of ICON. Therefore, the plaintiff’s cause must fail.”
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.