July 29, 2020 / 7:20 PM / 16 days ago

Bayer argues against weed-killer verdict, after its investigator finds U.S. farmer still in business

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bayer AG contended in court papers that a jury verdict in favor of a Missouri peach farmer was based on a false premise because a private investigator it hired found the farmer was still in business.

FILE PHOTO: Rodrigo Werle, a weed scientist at the University of Wisconsin inspects soybean fields as part of the university's research into whether the weed killer dicamba drifted away from where it was sprayed in Arlington, Wisconsin, August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Tom Polansek/File Photo

A jury in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in February awarded Bill Bader, Missouri’s largest peach farmer, $15 million in actual and $250 million in punitive damages. Bader sued Bayer and its rival BASF SE , saying his 1,000-acre orchard was irreparably harmed when herbicides made by the companies drifted onto his trees from nearby farms.

Bayer and BASF are appealing the verdict. The court filing, dated Tuesday, said the dicamba-based herbicides did not ruin the farm.

Bayer this month sent a private investigator to confirm that Bader’s retail store was selling peaches and his trees were growing fruit, after seeing an advertisement for his peaches, according to the filing.

Bayer is battling a slew of lawsuits stemming from its $63 billion takeover of seed and chemical company Monsanto in 2018.

“The new evidence provided to the court clearly demonstrates that Bader Farm’s $15 million compensatory damages award was based on the false premise that the farm would be completely out of the peach business by 2019,” Bayer said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Lawyers for Bader said in court documents that Bayer’s filing should not be considered.

Attorney Billy Randles, whose firm represented Bader, told Reuters: “We find it ridiculous that Monsanto persists in raising in the media matters that they either lost in front of the jury or did not raise before the jury.”

“Bader Farms sells some peaches, even though it has been devastated by dicamba.”

Bayer said last month it will pay up to $400 million to resolve lawsuits, not including Bader’s, that were brought by landowners who say their crops were damaged by neighbors using Monsanto’s dicamba-based weed-killer. The product is alleged to waft away from the target field.

Bayer has also agreed to pay as much as $10.9 billion to settle U.S. lawsuits claiming that Monsanto’s Roundup weed-killer caused cancer.

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Tom Brown

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