Duarte Nursery of Hughson stopped selling defective pistachio trees in 2014, but litigation over the matter goes on. Several plaintiffs claimed the nursery did not disclose a genetic disorder that caused more than half a million trees to grow poorly.
The defendants include company President John Duarte, who is running for Congress in the November 8 election. Judge John Freeland ruled in the growers’ favor in Stanislaus County Superior Court in March but has yet to hear arguments on monetary damages.
The ruling cites at least $8.8 million in losses claimed by the growers. The disorder is called bushy top syndrome, previously unknown in the pistachio belt from Merced to Kern counties
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which promotes party members nationwide, seized on the lawsuit in an email Tuesday to The Bee. “Multi-millionaire John Duarte is a deceitful charlatan who believes he is above the law and is out for himself no matter the costs to others,” spokesperson Maddy Mundy said. “John Duarte has already cost Valley farmers enough; they cannot afford his broken priorities in Congress.”
One plaintiff bought 409,500 trees The biggest claimed loss by far was the 409,500 trees sold to Rod Stiefvater for orchards in Tulare and Kern counties. Complaints involving 65,409 trees were filed by Laborde Land Co. in Kern. Marchini & Son sued over 42,000 trees in Merced County.