Bayer Ordered to Pay US Couple $2Bln Over Weed Killer Cancer Case

Jeannie Matthews
May 16, 2019

Monsanto Co. lost a legal battle over its massively popular Roundup herbicide on Monday to the tune of $3 billion, with a jury in San Francisco ordering the court to pay out the stunning sum to a couple that said it caused their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Bayer acquired Roundup as part of its $63bn dollar purchase of Monsanto a year ago.

The septuagenarian plaintiffs, Alva and Alberta Pilliod of Livermore, used the weed killer on their property for more than three decades and were diagnosed with the same type of cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, four years apart, according to their attorneys.

The German chemicals giant faces more than 13,400 U.S. lawsuits over the herbicide's alleged cancer risk, according to Reuters.

The verdict will be vulnerable to a legal challenge by Bayer because courts have generally held that punitive damages shouldn't be more than 10 times higher than compensatory damages.

The Oakland jury, which awarded each spouse $1 billion in punitive damages in addition to other damages, found that the active ingredient in Roundup - glyphosate - had likely caused the couple's cancer. At its recent annual meeting, a shareholder revolt ensued, with more than half of the shareholders voting against absolving management for its decision to acquire the St. Louis-based seed and pesticide company.

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Bayer said it was "disappointed" in the decision and would appeal.

Brent Wisner, a lawyer for the Pilliods, at a news conference following the verdict said Bayer had to take responsibility for its product. I mean, people smoke cigaretes, but right there on the label it says you know "may cause cancer".

The level of punitive damages may be reduced on appeal, but right now it's the eighth-biggest product-defect jury award in USA history.

That figure, which consists of $3 billion in punitive damages and $79 million in compensatory ones, is all but certain to be reduced by the trial judge or on appeal-University of California, Hastings School of Law professor David Levine told the Associated Press there is "There is zero chance it will stand". The European Chemicals Agency and other regulators around the globe have also found glyphosate not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. The verdict puts the onus on Bayer to alter its defense course and consider a settlement: litigation concerns have eroded Bayer's value by more than 40 per cent since the deal was sealed in June. The court didn't propose a ratio it felt correct, but said punitive damages should nearly never exceed nine times actual damages, it said.

"We were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto's manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup's severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind", he said in a statement.

The German agro-chemicals and drugs giant finalised its massive acquisition of Monsanto a year ago, but the blockbuster purchase has turned out to be plagued with other massive costs. The verdict was announced after the trading session closed.

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