A federal judge in Utah upheld a $1.2 million verdict to a fruit orchard that claimed fertilizers manufactured by Bio Tech Nutrients ruined its crops. Although the jury found there was no design or manufacturing defect, it still concluded the company failed to adequately warn Fowers Fruit Ranch, a family-owned orchard, about the dangers of using its BTN+ fertilizer.
Bio Tech moved the Court to vacate the verdict, arguing that the jury could not simultaneously absolve it of liability for the defect claim while finding the fertilizer was acidic enough to damage plants. U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell denied the motion, finding it was reasonable to conclude the plants were nevertheless damaged by Bio Tech’s fertilizers.
The Fowers filed suit in January 2011, alleging their crops sustained $5 million in damages after applying Bio Tech’s recommended fertilizers. Court documents reveal that the Fowers purchased Bio Tech’s BTN products after being told it would replace conventional fertilizers and lead to more bountiful produce. In 2008, the Fowers sprayed BTN+ directly on some new plantings and via fertigation, which is a method of injecting the fertilizer into water to be sprayed over a patch. Although the fertilizer’s label and instructions state the product should only be applied via fertigation, owner Jerry Fowers testified he did not recall receiving any instructions.
In the following spring, Bio Tech allegedly recommended that Fowers use a new product called Enviromoist, which was a mixture of BTN+ with polymers that would aid in root growth. Apparently heeding Bio Tech’s advice, Fowers dipped the roots of his new apple tree into Enviromoist before planting. The trees began to die within a few weeks of planting and failed to rebound despite additional applications of BTN+.
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