Monsanto Claims $75 Million Judgment Expanded Missouri Law in Eighth Circuit Brief

Monsanto filed its opening brief in an Eighth Circuit appeal of the $75 million judgment in a dispute over harm allegedly caused by dicamba herbicides to peach trees owned by the plaintiffs, Bader Farms and Bill Bader. The brief and its addendum were submitted for review by Monsanto on Friday and were filed in the case on Monday. 

Monsanto argued in the brief that the District Court had erred by “massively expanding Missouri’s doctrine of proximate causation” in its ruling and that the company should not be liable for the damage because it did not manufacture or sell the herbicide, which purportedly caused damage to the seeds. 

“The purported bias for liability is that third-party farmers sprayed the herbicides over crops grown from Monsanto’s seeds contrary to express warnings – and the herbicides then allegedly drifted onto Plaintiff Bader Farms, damaging peach trees,” Monsanto explained in its brief. Monsanto purported that the misuse of Dicamba by a third party should not lead to Monsanto’s liability and that Missouri law does not allow for Monsanto to be liable when it did not either manufacture or sell the product. 

The company argued, among other things, that the district court had placed “impermissible emphasis on Monsanto’s net worth” in granting punitive damages. The company also explained that state law was expanded to allow for damages based on speculative lost future profits, which goes against precedent from other fruit tree lawsuits. 

The Eastern District of Missouri previously lowered the amount of the judgment significantly from the $265 million that was granted to Bader Farms after a three-week jury trial. The court ruled that $75 million was a more “Constitutionally-appropriate amount.” Monsanto argued in the present brief that even this award of damages, which included $60 million in punitive damages, is “unconstitutionally excessive” and is contrary to precedent and Missouri law. 

Monsanto, represented by Sidley Austin LLP, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP and Thompson Coburn LLP, asked the Eighth Circuit to reverse the ruling and ask the district court to rule in favor of Monsanto, or vacate the decision and remand the case for a new trial, or substantially reduce the award.