Jury awards $265 million to Missouri farmer in weedkiller "drift" case

Bayer says it's disappointed in the verdict and plans to appeal

Michael Calhoun
February 18, 2020 - 11:01 am
Bader Peach Farms

via Bader Peach Farms


ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- The number is eye-popping: a Missouri jury awarded $265 million to a Bootheel-area farmer who says he lost his peach crop because a neighbor used a weedkiller.

After grappling with numerous lawsuits involving its Roundup weed killer, this is another challenge for Creve Coeur-based Bayer Crop Science.

Bayer says it's disappointed in the jury's verdict and plans to appeal.

Jurors decided to believe the argument that BASF along with Bayer, the new owner of Monsanto, both knew that the chemical 'dicamba' can be blown to nearby fields and kill unprotected crops, especially during spring and summer seasons.

"Normally, you have a drift case when one farmer sprays a little and it ends up on another field. That's applicator error and that's the farmer's fault," plaintiff attorney Paul Lesko explains. "But here, no matter what a farmer does, it's our allegations that if you apply the product, follow all the labels, do all the instructions, the dicamba will volatilize, move off target, and it'll settle."

$15 million of the judgment was to compensate the peach farm's owners for lost business. The remaining $250 million was punitive, resulting from what Lesko calls "corporate misconduct."

"The jury saw internal documents from BASF and Monsanto and wanted to send a message," he said.

The case of Bader Peach Farms, near Cape Girardeau, is one of about 130 dicamba lawsuits. Lesko says they're deciding whether to try for class action status.

Bayer released a statement saying: "We believe the evidence presented at trial demonstrated that Monsanto’s products were not responsible for the losses sought in this lawsuit and we look forward to appealing the decision."