Bayer Roundup settlement reduced by California state appeals court

Bayer AG lost appeal to toss 2018 verdict, which fined the company $78.5M in damages

A California state appeals court has reduced Bayer AG's $289.2 million settlement with a former school groundskeeper who claimed the company’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer.

The three-judge panel reduced damages for economic loss to $10.2 million and said any punitive damages should match, resulting in total damages of $20.4 million.

However, Bayer lost its appeal to toss a 2018 verdict which fined the company $78.5 million in damages.

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Bayer has argued that Roundup and the weedkiller’s active ingredient, glyphosate, are safe and backed by regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and that the previous jury decision in favor of the plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, conflicted with an EPA position preventing the company from putting a cancer-warning label on the product.

The appeals court disagreed, however, finding that while the EPA says glyphosate isn’t harmful to humans and that no cancer warning is needed, “that opinion, in the abstract, isn’t binding on this court.”

Containers of Roundup are displayed on a store shelf in San Francisco. (AP Photo)

The judges added that Johnson "presented abundant—and certainly substantial—evidence that glyphosate, together with the other ingredients in Roundup products, caused his cancer,” citing experts who told jurors that Roundup could cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma generally as well as Johnson's cancer.

However, they ruled that the payout must be reduced because California law did not afford damages for a shortened life expectancy.

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Johnson's attorney Brent Wisner called the Monday ruling “another major victory” but believes the reduction in damages is “a function of a deep flaw in California tort law” that he hopes will be addressed by the California Supreme Court.

In a statement, Bayer said the reduction in compensatory and punitive damages “is a step in the right direction” but it continues to believe the jury’s decision was “inconsistent with the evidence at trial and the law” and Monsanto will consider filing an appeal with California’s highest court.

The company, which inherited Roundup as part of its $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto, previously said it will pay up to $10.9 billion to settle litigation related to the product.

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The lawsuit isn't included in Bayer's broader settlement that has resolved 95,000 of approximately 125,000 U.S. lawsuits by Roundup users claiming the herbicide caused their cancers. Monday's verdict will likely make it more difficult for the company to settle its other lawsuits.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BAYRY BAYER AG 15.37 -0.25 -1.60%

Bayer stock closed at $18.15 per share at the end of Monday's trading session.

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