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Monsanto, BASF Must Defend Dicamba Drift Suit in State Court

Oct. 17, 2019, 3:08 PM

Monsanto Co. and BASF Corp. must defend in state court allegations that dicamba herbicides drifted onto a Tennessee tobacco farm, causing damage to crops, the Eastern District of Missouri said.

There’s no federal question jurisdiction because plaintiff Tandy Ray King doesn’t assert that the defendants violated any federal law, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri said, remanding the case to a Tennessee trial court.

Although the complaint alleges the companies deceived the EPA during the review process of the genetically-modified seeds, that isn’t an element of King’s cause of action, the court said.

The court also rejected the companies’ argument that it has diversity jurisdiction on the ground that no defendant is a citizen of the same state as the plaintiff.

Complete diversity is lacking because King also named as a defendant Maury Farmers Cooperative, a Tennessee company that sprayed the herbicides on his neighbor’s crop.

And the companies failed to show that Maury Farmers was fraudulently joined to defeat diversity, the court said.

King sufficiently alleged that Maury Farmers breached its duty by spraying the herbicide in a manner that caused it to drift onto his farm and damaged his crops, the court said Oct. 16.

Defendants typically prefer to litigate in federal court to avoid inconsistent state-court rulings; plaintiffs may view state courts as better positioned to enforce state law protections.

The complaint alleges that Monsanto and BASF sold formulations of dicamba as part of a scheme to force farmers to defensively plant dicamba-resistant crops.

The complaint includes claims of negligence, design defect, failure to warn, and allegations under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.

Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. issued the ruling.

McKellar Hyde, PLC represents the plaintiff.

Bryan Cave LLP, and Butler Snow LLP represent Monsanto.

Faegre and Baker LLP represents BASF.

The case is King v. Monsanto Co., 2019 BL 395558, E.D. Mo., No. 19-cv-00129, 10/16/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com