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News and Best Practices

Product Liability: What’s the risk for growers?

June 7, 2016

Sometimes life isn’t fair. Without realizing it, growers may be liable for product liability claims, even if they try to do everything right in the grow. Recently, the first civil lawsuit based on product liability was filed against a major grower in Denver. The lawsuit was based on the claim that pesticides that were harmful to the consumers were used.

In addition to the lawsuit, there was an issue with the well-known pesticide Guardian Mite Spray, which was found to contain the chemical abamectin. The chemical, which was not listed as an ingredient, was not an approved substance in all states.

Any time a product enters the marketplace, there’s a possibility of a product liability civil lawsuit. A lawsuit could be filed if a product is found to have injured a consumer, caused them to suffer damages, or has inadequate warnings or a recall.

Civil lawsuits of this nature can usually be brought against any business that is part of the supply chain. The cannabis industry and its participating businesses and individuals, including growers, manufacturers, dispensaries/centers or retailers, are not immune to product liability exposure.


What’s a Grower to Do?

So what can you do after you discover that you have used an unapproved substance that was not included on a pesticide’s ingredient list, or have used an ingredient that at the time was unknown to be harmful?

There are several steps you can take to try to minimize exposure from product liability claims. However, it should be noted that even after trying to minimize all risks, a lawsuit could still be filed due to another business’s actions within the supply chain or unknown information at the time of use.

  1. Stay up-to-date on regulations: Compliance with state regulations is not a guarantee that lawsuits will not be filed or that growers will not be absolved from liability in court. Compliance is merely the minimum of what a grower must do as required by the state, but it could help minimize liability.
  2. Agricultural insurance: Several insurance companies offer agricultural coverage for growers. It not only covers legal costs of defending the business in court, but certain policies may also cover product loss in the event of quarantines or destruction. Not all policies are the same, and those interested in insurance need to make sure that the policy they purchase covers all necessary contingencies.
  3. Keep records: Growers should keep up-to-date logs that detail all products used on the crops, when they were used, which products were used on which crops, and the listed ingredients provided by the manufacturer of the pesticide. These records can prove to be invaluable during a defense or can aid in a lawsuit against a manufacturer that allegedly misrepresents their product.
  4. Have products tested: Depending on the state, it may or may not be required for plants to undergo laboratory testing. However, it is prudent to have your product tested, even if not required.
  5. Alert others: Growers should take steps to alert anyone involved in the supply chain, patients and the state if they discover through testing or other information-gathering that their product may have been treated with an unapproved or dangerous pesticide as soon as it is discovered.


By Devon Landis

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