A Landmark Case
In a landmark victory for farmers affected by pesticide spray drift, a Missouri jury forced Monsanto and BASF to pay $250 million in punitive damages to Bill and Denise Bader of Bader Farms.
Bader Farms, Missouri’s largest peach producer, filed suit against Monsanto for causing major damage to its orchards due to the drifting of the pesticide dicamba. Dicamba is a weed killer that had traditionally been limited in use because of its propensity to drift and harm crops. In 2017, however, Monsanto and BASF released new formulations of dicamba designed to be sprayed over genetically modified soybean and cotton crops and advertised to be less prone to drift.
A Failure to Inform
But once shown the hundreds of internal corporate documents and emails, official state studies, and published papers on the topic, the jury overwhelmingly found that Monsanto and BASF’s dicamba weed killers were in fact prone to drifting from the genetically modified soybean and cotton fields where they are sprayed and onto neighboring fields, like the Bader’s.
The jury determined that Monsanto and BASF were liable for negligent design of their pesticide dicamba and failure to provide necessary information about the risks of those pesticides. For example, Illinois, the nation’s top soybean producing state, had fewer than 100 total drift complaints annually for all pesticides for 30 years. But since Monsanto introduced a new version of dicamba in 2017, it set new records each year – with more than 700 dicamba complaints in 2019.
In awarding punitive damages, the jury also found that Monsanto and BASF engaged in a “conspiracy to create an ecological disaster to increase profits.”
Other Monsanto Pesticide Drift Cases
The Monsanto dicamba pesticide drift litigation has parallels to cases Thornton Law firm is currently litigating in Hawaii on behalf of families who lived downwind from Monsanto genetically-engineered seed farms and whose children were born with severe birth defects as a result of pesticides drifting into their homes.
Thornton Law Firm Files Hawaii Lawsuit Against Monsanto for Pregnant Mothers’ Exposures to Pesticides Resulting in Birth Defects
Thornton Law Firm, together with co-counsel Waters Kraus & Paul, Galiher DeRobertis and Waxman, and Phillips & Paolicelli, filed a first of its kind lawsuit against Monsanto in Hawaii state court on October 24, 2019. The case is filed on behalf of two families whose babies were born with severe birth defects as the result of exposure to toxic pesticides and herbicides used in fields in the town of Kihei, Maui.
The families both live in the same neighborhood downwind and within a few hundred yards of Monsanto’s large genetically engineered (GE) seed facility in Kihei. In order to test the GE seeds resistance to pesticides, Monsanto sprayed a series of toxic pesticides known as Restricted Use Pesticides on these fields. Toxic pesticides and herbicides were used on those fields for decades. The complaint alleges that the prevailing, constant Maui winds caused those pesticides to drift into the neighboring community of Kihei — where the mothers of the two plaintiffs were exposed to them while pregnant.
Hawaii and pesticides
Hawaii is the epicenter for the growing of genetically-modified seeds – known as GMOs, genetically modified organisms – and the testing of the pesticides used on those seeds. Monsanto grows GMO seeds, and then grows test crops planted using those seeds. Because of its year-round moderate climate, Hawaii hosts more experimental genetically engineered (GE) crop field tests than anywhere else in the United States. As a result, Hawaiians are at risk for exposure to pesticides in the communities where they live, work, and play.
The injuries suffered by the children are severe. One of the children was born with her throat detached from her esophagus, which required her to undergo multiple surgeries as an infant. That condition requires her to utilize a tracheostomy tube to this day. The other child suffers from severe kidney issues that have required various surgeries and resulted in a severe form of ADHD. Birth defects such as these and others have been closely linked to the exposure of pregnant mothers to toxic pesticides.
The lawsuit also includes claims against Alexander & Baldwin, a landowner that grew sugarcane near the plaintiffs’ neighborhoods. Growing sugarcane also involved using toxic pesticides that drifted into the neighboring community.
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We Are Here To Help
Thornton Law Firm is a nationwide leader in groundbreaking litigation representing children born with catastrophic birth defects from the toxic exposures of their parents. The parents of these children were exposed to glycol ethers in semiconductor “clean rooms,” pesticides in agriculture, and a variety of chemicals used in manufacturing. Since 2014, Thornton Law Firm has obtained settlements in excess of $100 million in cases involving pregnant women in the environment or the workplace who were exposed to ethylene glycol ethers, coal ash, pesticides, and other hazardous substances and subsequently had children born with catastrophic birth defects. Partners David C. Strouss and Evan R. Hoffman are leading the effort in Hawaii to hold Monsanto and others accountable for the harm caused by pregnant mothers’ exposures to harmful pesticides.