On Friday, a lawsuit filed by 57 vineyards covering about 3,000 acres alleging that dicamba has caused permanent damage to their operations was removed from Texas state courts to the federal Texas Eastern District Court by one of the defendants, BASF Corporation.
The initial complaint, which was filed on June 4, alleged that the defendants, Bayer (through its subsidiary Monsanto) and BASF, partnered to develop the dicamba seed system to replace Roundup, which weeds were becoming more resistant to. The plaintiffs claimed that the companies’ new dicamba herbicides were prone to spread to plants that were not its target, but continued regardless and “saw an opportunity to start an agricultural ‘protection racket.’” The companies reportedly planned to cause harm to the crops of farmers who did not buy their products forcing more soybean and cotton farmers to buy their dicamba-resistant crops and use their dicamba herbicides.
The complaint reported one of the largest cotton patches in the world where the defendant’s dicamba-based growing system is prevalent. The complaint said that over 2 million acres in the area are planted with dicamba systems and that in the summer “a massive cloud of dicamba covers the High Plains.”
The plaintiffs, however, run vineyards that are part of a large Texas wine industry located near this cotton patch. They explained that grapes are sensitive to dicamba and that they cannot be made dicamba resistant. As a result, the plaintiffs claimed that they had decreased yields, the quality of their products decreased, their “award-winning and rapidly growing industry” has been crippled, and their vineyards have lost overall value.
“Dicamba damage on grapevines in the High Plains was unheard of prior to the release of Monsanto and BASF’s dicamba-based seed system. Now it can be found throughout every portion of every vineyard in the region,” the complaint alleged. “When vines get hit with dicamba many times a year, for multiple years, the results are disastrous — stunted development, significantly reduced yields, poor quality grapes, and, eventually, vine death.”
Through the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking over $114 million in economic damages, $228 million in punitive damages from Bayer and Monsanto, and another $228 million from BASF.
In their notice of removal, BASF claimed that only one of the plaintiffs “is non-diverse” and that the “improper joinder of one diverse plaintiff … does not defeat federal jurisdiction for the 60 Plaintiffs that are diverse.” The company also noted that there are other federal lawsuits with similar allegations claiming that the use of dicamba caused crop loss and that it is filing a notice of a potential tag-along in the multidistrict litigation matter held in the Missouri Eastern District.
The plaintiffs are represented by Schiffer Hicks Johnson PLLC, Liggett Law Group PC, and Key Terrell & Seger LLP. BASF is represented by Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Bayer and Monsanto do not yet have representation.