Key Part of Soy Farmers’ Suit Against Monsanto Advances

ST. LOUIS (CN) – A federal judge in Missouri dismissed several claims in a class action brought by farmers claiming agrochemical giant Monsanto sold dicamba weed killer products that damaged their soybean crops.

Twenty soybean farmers slapped Monsanto and BASF with the 94-claim federal lawsuit in 2018, seeking damages for crops they say were harmed by dicamba weed killer that drifted from neighboring farms.

According to the farmers, Monsanto’s pursuit of profit led them to push the Xtend seeds and XtendiMax and Engenia herbicides and vouch for the system’s safety while knowing crops and plants not resistant to dicamba would be damaged. Furthermore, the farmers claim Monsanto did all this to force soybean farmers to ditch other products in favor of Monsanto’s system so their crops would be safe.

Dicamba is an herbicide that kills certain weeds but is highly volatile and tends to drift, according to the lawsuit.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. dismissed several of the farmers’ individual state law claims relating to trespass, nuisance, negligent training, failure to warn, strict liability, warranty and consumer protection.

He also dismissed a nationwide class action misrepresentation claim against BASF because it is incorporated in Delaware, so the court lacks general jurisdiction over it.

Although the judge largely granted the motions to dismiss, he allowed conspiracy claims relating to underlying intentional torts to proceed. He found the farmers have sufficiently shown at this stage in the litigation that the businesses worked together to profit from the products through false advertising and fraudulent misrepresentation.

Don Downing, chair of the plaintiffs’ court executive committee, expressed satisfaction about the ruling in a phone interview Thursday.

“We are pleased that the court has ruled that soybean farmers who have been harmed by dicamba have legally viable claims against Monsanto and BASF. We also look forward to vigorously prosecuting those claims, as the litigation moves forward toward trial,” said Downing.

Monsanto spokesperson Charla Lord said in a statement the company is also pleased with the ruling. 

“Monsanto appreciates that the court recognized that the majority of the plaintiffs’ claims were meritless, in their entirety or in part, and has refused to let those claims go forward. Monsanto believes the remaining claims are likewise without merit and is confident that we will prevails as we continue to vigorously defend those claims.”

The plaintiffs include 21 farmers from Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Tennessee.

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