Federal judge remands Monsanto dicamba seed case back to state court

By John Breslin | Jun 12, 2018

CAPE GIRARDEAU – A case centered on a seed and herbicide produced by Monsanto, which has pitted farmer against farmer, has been remanded back to the Mississippi County Circuit Court.

U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. granted the motion to remand May 31.

McIvan Jones Farm of East Prairie and Steve and Vickie Jackson sued Monsanto over claims the St. Louis agri-chemical company distributed dicamba herbicide-tolerant seed without any corresponding herbicide. The plaintiffs asked the federal court for the Eastern District of Missouri to remand the case to state court.

Thousands of farmers in states across the country, including Missouri, claimed drift from the old formulation of the same herbicide caused serious damage to their crops. Some were forced to then buy the new dicamba-tolerant seed from Monsanto, the memorandum and order states.

McIvan Jones Farms filed a class action in state court to represent "any producer who grew soybeans that were 'not resistant to and [were] damaged by dicamba herbicide,'” the order states.

Monsanto wanted the case heard in federal court.

The May 31 memorandum and order states that "Monsanto released its dicamba-tolerant seed in 2015 and 2016 with no corresponding dicamba herbicide.

"As a result, farmers illegally sprayed an old formulation of dicamba herbicide that was unapproved for in-crop, over-the-top, use, and was 'volatile,' or prone to drift. This damaged neighboring crops, which supposedly forced neighboring farmers to plant Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant seed defensively.

"In 2017, Monsanto finally released its dicamba herbicide. This new dicamba formulation was approved for in-crop use. Plaintiffs claim this new formulation is still volatile and still damaged intolerant soybeans in neighboring fields," the memorandum and order states.

The plaintiffs filed suit over allegations of strict liability, negligence and trespass.

"Especially relevant here, plaintiffs allege Monsanto was negligent due to product labeling shortcomings," the order states.

Monsanto argued that any state action is pre-empted by federal laws, including those relating to labeling. The federal court disagreed.

Limbaugh wrote, "It seems likely that Monsanto will raise and vigorously argue a preemption defense when the appropriate time comes. This is not that time because none of plaintiffs’ claims arise under federal law and because plaintiffs’ claims are not completely preempted."

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Monsanto Company U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Southeastern Division

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