German chemical company Bayer AG’s shares rose more than 6% on 4 January after a US district court judge agreed to its request to split evidence presented in upcoming bellwether trials over whether glyphosate weedkiller causes cancer.
Bayer, which bought Monsanto for US$63bn in June last year, faces more than 9,300 US lawsuits over glyphosate.
On 3 January, US District Judge Vince Chhabria granted Bayer’s request for “bifurcation”, which essentially divides a trial into two phases.
Lawyers in three upcoming bellwether trials have to demonstrate that glyphosate in weedkillers causes cancer, before presenting evidence to prove Monsanto had acted with malice, according to Market Watch.
The decision will apply to a federal court trial starting on 25 February before the US District Court for the Northern District of California consolidating 1,654 plaintiffs with non-Hodgkin lymphoma that have sued in federal courts across the country. The decision will also apply to two other trials starting later this year.
Bellwether cases were selected to test arguments for other similar plaintiffs in an attempt to reach a large-scale resolution, Market Watch said.
Judge Chhabria said the bifurcation split was unusual but warranted, as significant portion of the plaintiff’s case involved attacks on Monsanto for attempting to manipulate public opinion, which were a distraction when trying to establish whether glyphosate caused his disease.
He was referring to Edwin Hardeman, whose case has been picked as the first bellwether case to go to trial in February.
UBS analyst Michael Leuchten said in research note that the judge’s decision was “a reasonably significant development because this was not done in the first case that Bayer lost, where the jury was presented with evidence that will now only be allowed in phase two”.
In that case, US groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was awarded damages of US$289M in October after he claimed that Monsanto’s weedkillers, Ranger Pro and RoundUp, caused his cancer.
Bayer – which has repeatedly pointed to scientific evidence and regulations establishing that glyphosate is safe – has argued that the court decision was overly based on emotion.