Bayer loses court case against French farmer

Just days after German pharmaceutical group Bayer lost its first Roundup weedkiller cancer test case in the USA, a French appeals court has ruled in favour of a French farmer who claimed to have been poisoned by a different herbicide owned by the company.

On 10 April, the Lyon court of appeals ruled that agribusiness Monsanto – which Bayer acquired last June for US$63bn, along with its Roundup and Lasso brands – was liable for the harm done to Paul Francois.

Francois claimed he had suffered memory loss, headaches and stammering after accidentally inhaling Lasso in 2004, and had to stop work as a result, BBC News said. He accused Monsanto of not giving sufficient safety warnings.

The Lyon court awarded €50,000 (US$56,568) to Francois to cover legal expenses but Francois is also seeking €1M (US$1.1M) in compensation.

Monsanto was initially found liable in 2012, and again on appeal in 2015, but France’s top court ordered a re-examination in 2017 to consider whether EU rules on defective goods, rather than French law, should apply to the case, according to the MENAFN news agency.

The Lyon court decided that under EU rules, Monsanto had not adequately labelled the risks and safety measures needed to use Lasso, which was banned in France in 2007.

A lawyer for Monsanto, Jean-Dean Bretzner, said it was “highly likely the firm will appeal the case at France’s highest court”, and noted that the under EU rules, defective goods damages actions could only be brought against the producer – in this case, a unit based in Belgium – and not the product’s distributor in France, Monsanto.

The ruling has come after Bayer lost its first US test or ‘bellwether’ trial in March to a 70-year-old California resident who was awarded US$80M in damages after Monsanto’s Roundup was ruled a substantial factor in giving him non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

US groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was also awarded US$78M in damages last year in a Roundup cancer case.

Bayer still faces 11,200 similar claims in the USA.