6 Hawaii nurseries settle suit with DuPont
Six Hawaii nursery growers, including former state Sen. David Matsuura, have settled an 11-year-old lawsuit with DuPont Co. over damage allegedly caused to their plants by the company's fungicide Benlate.
The amount of the settlement was not announced, but growers' attorney Stephen Cox said it is a lot more than in similar cases. "We are much, much better than they were," he said.
Representing DuPont, attorney Warren Price also declared that his client was happy with the outcome.
"DuPont is very pleased that the case is settled. We think it's win-win," he said.
Plaintiffs also included Matsuura's brother Stephen Matsuura, Fuku Bonsai Inc., McConnell Inc. and Anthurium Acres, all based on the Big Island, and Living Design Inc., based on Oahu.
The case, which alleged DuPont had violated the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by covering up damage cause by Benlate, could have brought triple damages from DuPont if the plaintiffs had won.
Yesterday's settlement ended a trial before federal Judge Susan Oki Mollway in Honolulu that was to have started this week and estimated to last two months.
The larger story of Benlate is a quarter century old. Beginning in the 1980s, reports started to be heard across the country that the fungicide damaged plants.
David Matsuura, who served as a senator in 1998-2002, received a settlement of $1 million in 1994 from DuPont for his plant losses. His actual losses were about $4 million, he said.
Evidence later indicated DuPont had long known that Benlate damaged crops.
The RICO lawsuit that followed went to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals three times, as well as to the Delaware and Hawaii supreme courts, Cox said.
The plaintiffs' attorney said that although he was a little disappointed he would not take the case to trial, the settlement is "very good for our clients."
In a separate trial in Kona in 1994, Waimea nurserymen Raymond Kawamata and Stanley Tomono won a judgment of $23.8 million from DuPont.