US judge slashes US$80M award against Bayer in Roundup cancer case

A US judge has slashed an US$80.3M damages award against German chemicals group Bayer to US$25.3M, in a case where a jury ruled the company’s glyphosate weedkiller as a “substantial factor” in causing a man’s cancer, Reuters reported.

San Francisco district judge Vince Chhabria said in an order on 15 July that the US$75M punitive damages awarded to California resident Edwin Hardeman in March was too high, based on legal precedent that punitive damages should not be more than nine times bigger than compensatory damages.

Hardeman was awarded US$5.3M in compensatory damages and US$75 in punitive damages on 27 March, after a jury ruled that the Roundup weedkiller of US agrochemical firm Monsanto – which Bayer acquired for US63bn in June 2018 – had contributed to causing his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

Chhabria said that although the jury’s decision to award the punitive damages was “reasonable,” the size of the award was “constitutionally impermissible”, Bloomberg wrote.

“Monsanto’s conduct, while reprehensible, does not warrant a ratio of that magnitude, particularly in the absence of evidence showing intentional concealment of a known or obvious safety risk,” wrote Chhabria, who also rejected Bayer’s request for a retrial.

Bayer called Chhabria’s decision a “step in the right direction” but said it still planned to appeal.

The company said the verdict and damages award “conflict with both the weight of the extensive science that supports the safety of Roundup, and the conclusions of leading health regulators in the US and around the world that glyphosate is not carcinogenic”.

Bayer is scheduled for a fourth trial in St Louis this summer and faces more than 13,400 Roundup lawsuits nationwide.