$400 Million Herbicide Victims Settlement
In 2016, Monsanto began selling a genetically modified soybean seed resistant to the herbicide dicamba. Monsanto and BASF marketed and sold the seed and herbicide as a crop system, allowing farmers to spray dicamba over the top of emerging soybean plants. Dicamba, however, is highly volatile and can move from the spray site, sometimes miles, to damage susceptible crops that have not been engineered to withstand it. It was reported that in 2017 alone, dicamba damaged more than 3.6 million acres of soybean crops.
In 2017, Gray Ritter Graham attorneys began talking to farmers about damage from off-target movement of dicamba, learning the science, consulting with experts, and researching potential legal claims. Gray Ritter Graham filed suit on behalf of Missouri farmers and hundreds of other farmers filed suit across the country.
The litigation was centralized in the federal district court in the Eastern District of Missouri. Gray Ritter Graham attorney Don Downing was appointed Chair of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in the multidistrict litigation. Gretchen Garrison researched and drafted the master class action complaint asserting multiple claims for soybean farmers in eight states and led the briefing team that defeated defendants’ quest for dismissal.
As Chair of the Executive Committee, Downing oversaw the MDL litigation, organizing teams to conduct numerous tasks, and participating in all aspects of the litigation.
Over 2 million documents were painstakingly reviewed and coded by a team including GRG attorneys Cort VanOstran, Jack Downing, and Kaitlin Bridges, who also focused on project management, ESI protocols, discovery requests, and second stage review for important depositions and trial exhibits. Some 33 depositions of defendants and their employees were taken along with 24 depositions of named plaintiffs.
In 2020, the first dicamba damage case Bader v. Monsanto, went to trial, assisted by Don Downing, Kaitlin Bridges, Cort VanOstran, and Jack Downing, resulting in a jury verdict of $15 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
Downing led negotiations that resulted in a total $400 million mass tort and individual settlement. Downing received a Missouri Lawyers Award in 2021 for this settlement, named the #1 settlement for 2020. It includes $300 million for soybean farmers who experienced damage due to the dicamba movement between 2015 and 2020.