Bayer-Monsanto Loses Millions in Dicamba Trial
Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020
A Missouri peach farmer was awarded $265 million in damages for herbicide drift. But that’s not all.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020 – Bayer AG’s decision to purchase Creve Coeur, MO-based Monsanto has taken yet another downward turn after Missouri’s largest peach farmer was awarded $265 million for damage caused by Monsanto dicamba-based herbicide and marketing of genetically modified dicamba-resistant crops.
The lawsuit was the first of approximately 100 farmers who have filed over crops damaged caused by drift of dicamba from nearby fields. According to US Right to Know, there have been more than 5,000 complaints filed with state agencies. If those complaints turn into lawsuits, German-based Bayer, which bought Monsanto at a $66 billion price tag in September 2016, could face billions more in losses.
Despite huge potential losses due to dicamba, the number pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of lawsuits filed in the U.S. alone by plaintiffs who believe their non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers were caused by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. Currently, Bayer-Monsanto is appealing more than $2.3 billion in glyphosate verdicts against them.
The bellwether Missouri case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division, under Civil Docket #1:16-cv-00299-SNLJ. In it, Bill Bader, owner of 1,000-acre peach farm, Bader Farms in Campbell, Missouri, alleged that dicamba, sprayed on a nearby field, drifted onto his farm and caused irrevocable damage to many of his 110,000 peach trees.
Allegations in the lawsuit were significantly more complex than simply holding Bayer-Monsanto accountable for dicamba drift. It alleged, and proved, that the company marketed Xtend dicamba-resistant seeds nearly two years before releasing the accompanying VaporGrip dicamba-based herbicide. According to the plaintiffs, the company did so knowing that farmers, highway departments, and other herbicide users would be forced to use older, unapproved versions of dicamba that are more likely to drift to and damage nearby crops.
The complaint reads, “The distribution and sale of Defendant Monsanto’s Xtend cotton seeds in 2015, however, was botched from the start, violated standard industry practice, and ushered in a wave of reckless experimentation in the farming community of Southeast Missouri. …
“Defendant Monsanto sold only one (1) part of the system — the Xtend seeds — and failed to provide the VaporGrip herbicide, which makes the Xtend cotton and soybean seeds defective. Moreover, Defendant Monsanto’s greed means its Xtend crops, as marketed, are defective, dangerous, and destructive.
“Thus, farmers in Southeast Missouri who purchased Xtend cotton in 2015 (and again in 2016, including Defendant Monsanto’s Xtend soybeans in 2016) did not have a complete package of products. In other words, farmers were only sold half of a product system needed for the Xtend seeds to be used safely and effectively.”
The plaintiffs argued that it was all part of Bayer-Monsanto’s creation of an “ecological disaster” to force farmers to buy dicamba-resistant seeds that could protect their crops from dicamba used in nearby fields.
They also argued that Bayer-Monsanto did so to make up for profits lost in an increasing number of damaging verdicts in Roundup/glyphosate cases, as well as Roundup-resistant superweeds that have evolved over the last decade that have decreased efficacy of its top-selling product.
The jury agreed after only four hours of deliberations, awarding Bader Farms $15 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punative damages — more than the $200 million the plaintiff’s attorneys requested. Bayer-Monsanto is expected to appeal the decision.
Bayer-Monsanto rivals Dupont and BASF SE have released similar dicamba-based products, and could also face major lawsuits.
If you are an agricultural professional whose crops have been damaged by dicamba drift, contact OnderLaw at (314) 963-9000 for a free, no-obligation consultation.