Bayer, the new owner of the agrochemical company Monsanto, said Thursday that the number of U.S. lawsuits against the Roundup maker has risen to about 8,000 from 5,200 after the company was ordered to pay $289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper for not warning him about the potential cancer risks of using the spray.
“The number of plaintiffs in both state and federal litigation is approximately 8,000 as of end-July. These numbers may rise or fall over time but our view is that the number is not indicative of the merits of the plaintiffs’ cases,” Bayer CEO Werner Baumann told analysts in a conference call on Thursday.
Shares of the German pharmaceutical giant have also lost more than 10 percent since Monsanto was ordered last month to pay $289 million to Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, who claimed he became sick with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup for more than two years as a groundskeeper for a school district outside San Francisco.
A California jury concluded that Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro products did present a “substantial danger” to terminally ill Johnson and jurors believed the company knew or should have known about the potential risks the products posed.
Johnson’s case is now the first of a long list of about 8,000 people looking to sue the weedkiller maker for similar allegations.
Baumann, however, reiterated to analysts Thursday that the jury’s verdict was inconsistent with the science-based conclusions of regulators and added that demand for glyphosate-based products remained strong. He also said the company plans to “vigorously defend” itself during the appeal of the case and in all upcoming cases.
Johnson’s lawyer, Timothy Litzenburg, told FOX Business that since the verdict, his office has received calls from many other potential clients who say they have been affected by Roundup.
“We already had thousands of complaints before the trial,” he said. “In January, I have already have a case in St. Louis. And then another one in Oakland, California. There’s going to be plenty more scheduled in the next few months, too.”
Litzenburg said his goal is to try to take as many cases to trial as he can.
Bayer is scheduled to report its second-quarter results on Sept. 5.