A Missouri jury’s $265 million award to peach grower Bill Bader in his lawsuit against herbicide providers Whippany-based Bayer and BASF has raised the stakes for the two companies as at least 140 similar cases head to U.S. courts later this year.
Reuters reported that a jury in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau, Mo., handed Bader, the state’s largest peach farmer, $15 million in actual and $250 million in punitive damages. Bader sued the companies saying his 1,000-acre orchard was irreparably harmed by herbicide produced by the companies that drifted onto his trees from nearby farms.
The three-week trial was the first case in the United States to rule on the use of dicamba-based herbicides alleged to have damaged tens of thousands of acres of U.S. cropland. According to Reuters, farmers have claimed the herbicide can become vapor and drift for miles when used in certain weather.
Bayer in a statement said it was “disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” and plans to appeal. BASF said in a statement it was evaluating its next steps. Both companies said their dicamba-based herbicides are safe when used as directed.
Bayer also faces separate multi-billion-dollar litigation suits over the Roundup weedkiller made by Monsanto that the U.S. firm took over for $63 billion in 2018. Monsanto made Roundup and dicamba, and Bayer is being sued over both products.
Bayer and BASF face other dicamba lawsuits that could begin later this year and before the same judge in Missouri, said attorney Billy Randles, whose firm represented Bader and also represents dozens of others with similar claims.