Monsanto wants big payout from Scruggses

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ag giant Monsanto wants $27 million from a Tupelo farm supply business and its owners in the wake of a jury verdict over saving and selling its patented seeds.
Monsanto sued Mitchell Scruggs Farm Supply, related businesses and their brother-partners Mitchell and Eddie Scruggs in 2000, demanding they stop profiting without a license to sell its bio-tech soybean seeds with a gene to resist its herbicide Roundup and its cotton seeds to ward off insects.
In 2010, a federal jury said Monsanto was wronged and the Scruggses owed the company $8.9 million.
Wednesday’s hearing before Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills allowed arguments for and against a new trial, a new decision in the case for Scruggs or for triple damages, attorneys fees and interest for Monsanto.
“We suggest a number of serious errors were committed during the trial,” said James Robertson of Jackson, one of the attorneys for the Scruggses.
Monsanto counsel Joseph Orlet of St. Louis told Mills, “Mr. Scruggs made a fateful choice in 1995-1996 not to license and use the technology as did many area growers. He elected to use it without obtaining a license.”
Orlet urged Mills to order the “enhanced damages,” saying Scruggs’ alleged reckless willfulness in committing the patent infringements raised the bar for the higher amount.
Robertson said despite Monsanto’s assertions that Scruggs and his farming enterprises were worth as much as $54 million, his real worth is less.
Co-counsel Jim Waide of Tupelo insisted the increased money damages were nothing short of the mega-company’s goal of driving Scruggs out of business. Orlet characterized the amount as “appropriate” for the damage done to the company and for the depth to which Scruggs sought to conceal then obstruct action against him.
Mills said he will rule in due course.