ST. LOUIS - A panel on multidistrict litigation has assigned U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. of the Eastern District of Missouri to oversee claims against Monsanto and others involving its herbicide dicamba. 

"Centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery, the possibility of inconsistent rulings on class certification, Daubert motions, and other pretrial matters, and conserve judicial and party resources," the panel ruled Feb. 1.

The order consolidates at least 15 class actions that have been pending in federal courts in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and Kansas.

Some of the claims pending at the Eastern District of Missouri involve soybean farmers who claim the use of dicamba in the 2016 growing season resulted in "significant harm" to their crops, causing them to plant dicamba-tolerant seeds "in a defensive posture for the 2017 growing season."

"This led to significant monetary expenditure by the Plaintiffs, and other similarly situated persons, as a direct result of the irresponsible marketing and distribution of Dicamba herbicide," the farmers claim.

They also claim that the use of dicamba in 2017 caused extensive damage to soybean and other crops.

Plaintiffs claim they can no longer use the product because of its negative impact on surrounding crops; they also allege they will see a reduced yield due to the inability to use dicamba to fight harmful weeds.

The panel's consolidation order indicates that discovery "appears to be extensive."

"Plaintiffs’ allegations that defendants conspired with one another to conceal the risks and misrepresent the characteristics of their products to regulators and the public also may necessitate significant discovery into defendants’ various business agreements and arrangements," the order states.

It further states that the Eastern District of Missouri is the site of Monsanto's headquarters and represents various relevant activities that took place in the jurisdiction.

"Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., to whom we assign the litigation, is an experienced jurist, who already is presiding over the two earliest-filed actions in this litigation,” the order states. "We are confident that he will steer this litigation on a prudent course."

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