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Monsanto, BASF Will Pay $250 Million In Punitive Damages In First Dicamba Trial

Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio
Bill and Denise Bader, owners of Missouri's largest peach farm, won their lawsuit against Monsanto and BASF for extensive dicamba damage.

CAPE GIRARDEAU — A federal jury in the first dicamba-related lawsuit to go to trial determined Saturday that Monsanto and BASF should pay $250 million in punitive damages.

That’s more than the $200 million suggested by lawyers working for the plaintiff, Bader Farms. 

Missouri’s largest peach producer, owned by Bill and Denise Bader, sued the ag giants for causing extensive dicamba damageto its orchards.

The jury found in favor of Bader Farms on all countsin a verdict reached Friday, awarding $15 million in damages. That amount, as well as the punitive damages, will be paid by both companies, split between them as they see fit.

The jury found Monsanto and BASF liable for negligent design of the products and negligent failure to warn users about the risks associated with the products. In addition, the jury found that the two companies created a joint venture to manufacture and sell dicamba-resistant seed and low volatility herbicides, and that they conspired to create an “ecological disaster” to increase profits.

Credit Corinne Ruff / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio
Billy (left) and Bev Randles, lead lawyers for Bader Farms, leave the federal court house in Cape Girardeau on Saturday after the last hearing in a more than three-week trial.

Bev Randles, a lawyer for Bader Farms, told reporters after the trial concluded Saturday that the take-home message for farmers in Missouri is that “there is no giant too big.”

“Everyone has to follow the law, including big agro giants like Monsanto and BASF,” she said. 

In a statement, Monsanto said it was disappointed in the jury’s verdict.

“While we have empathy for Mr. Bader, Monsanto’s products were not responsible for the losses sought in this lawsuit and we look forward to appealing the decision,” according to the statement.

The company said it stands by its dicamba-resistant seed and related herbicide.

BASF said in a statement that the company also is disappointed in the verdict and “will be looking at our post trial options.” 

It also defended Engenia, its dicamba-based herbicide, as “critically important” for farmers battling resistant weeds.

Immediately after the initial verdict Friday, members of the plaintiff’s team embraced. Denise Bader wiped away tears as she held onto the arm of her husband, Bill.

They both thanked several members of the gallery for attending the hearing, including Steve and Dee Landers. 

“We’re up next,” Dee Landers said outside the courtroom. The couple operates a farm in Missouri’s bootheel and say they’ve been affected by dicamba drift.

They're among the hundreds of farmers who have filed lawsuits against Monsanto and BASF for dicamba damage to their crops. 

Landers said the verdict was exactly what she hoped for.

“That they be exposed for what they did to our environment and to all of us farmers that went through this and hurt us all financially,” she said.

Follow Corinne on Twitter:@corinnesusan

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.