Bayer sends private investigator to U.S. farm, appeals weed-killer case

CHICAGO, July 29 (Reuters) - Bayer AG sent a private investigator this month to evaluate the business of a U.S. peach grower who won a $265 million court verdict against the company and rival BASF SE, in a bid to overturn the decision, according to court filings.

A jury in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in February awarded Bill Bader, Missouri’s largest peach farmer, $15 million in actual and $250 million in punitive damages. Bader sued Bayer and BASF, saying his 1,000-acre orchard was irreparably harmed by herbicides drifting onto its trees from nearby farms.

Bayer’s private investigator found Bader’s retail store was selling peaches and his trees were growing fruit, according to a court filing on Tuesday that argued the dicamba-based herbicides did not ruin the farm. Bayer also cited advertisements promoting Bader peaches as evidence.

Bayer is battling a slew of lawsuits stemming from its $63 billion takeover of seed and chemical company Monsanto in 2018.

“The new evidence provided to the court clearly demonstrates that Bader Farm’s $15 million compensatory damages award was based on the false premise that the farm would be completely out of the peach business by 2019,” Bayer said in a statement on Wednesday.

Attorney Billy Randles, whose firm represented Bader, told Reuters: “We find it ridiculous that Monsanto persists in raising in the media matters that they either lost in front of the jury or did not raise before the jury,” said

“Bader Farms sells some peaches, even though it has been devastated by dicamba.” Bayer agreed last month to pay as much as $10.9 billion to settle U.S. lawsuits claiming that Monsanto’s Roundup weed-killer caused cancer.

Bayer also said it will pay up to $400 million to resolve lawsuits, not including Bader’s, that were brought by landowners who say their crops were damaged by neighbors using Monsanto’s dicamba-based weed-killer. The product is alleged to and waft away from the target field. (Reporting by Tom Polansek)