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Calif. Team Secures Defense Jury Verdict in $30M Suit

A team of Lewis Brisbois lawyers recently obtained a unanimous jury verdict in a $30 million dollar products liability suit.

At the heart of the long-running case was fertilizer manufactured by our client, SQM North America, during the 1930s and 40s and sold to citrus farmers in and around Pomona, Calif. The City of Pomona alleged that the fertilizer contained the poisonous chemical perchlorate that, over time, leeched into the surrounding groundwater.

During the trial, Lewis Brisbois argued that there was not enough evidence to prove that local farmers even used SQM fertilizer, let alone that the fertilizer was responsible for the perchlorate contamination. Other local industries, such as aerospace, could also be the source of the pollution. 

The jury deliberated for two hours before returning a defense verdict, finding that the benefits of the fertilizer outweighed any risks associated with it. 

The verdict brings to a close a dispute that has lasted nearly a decade. The City of Pomona first filed suit in state court in 2010 and in 2015, a jury decided in favor of SQM North America. However, the Ninth Circuit overturned that original verdict last year, citing concerns that the district court overreached when it limited the testimony of one of the city’s experts.

SQM North America is represented by San Diego Partner R. Gaylord Smith, San Francisco Partner Michael Johnson, and Indian Wells Partner John Nelson.

Learn more about the verdict here


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