US judge to slash US$80M in Roundup verdict

A US judge has said he would reduce an US$80M damage award against German chemicals group Bayer to US$50M or less, in a case where a jury ruled the company’s glyphosate weedkiller as a “substantial factor” in causing a man’s cancer, Reuters reported on 3 July.

In March, a San Francisco jury ruled that the Roundup weedkiller of US agrochemical firm Monsanto – which Bayer acquired for US$63bn in June 2018 – had contributed to causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) in California resident Edwin Hardeman.

District judge Vince Chhabria said the jury’s US$75M punitive damages award could not stand.

“It’s quite clear that under the Constitution, I’m required to reduce the punitive damages award and it’s just a question of how much,” he said during a court hearing where lawyers from both sides discussed the Bayer’s request to overturn the verdict.

Hardeman – who was diagnosed with NHL in 2014 – was awarded US$5M in compensatory and US$75M in punitive damages on 27 March following a four-week trial.

Reuters wrote that Chhabria was also considering reducing the compensatory damages award because Hardeman was now in full remission and unlikely to suffer as much as he had in the past.

Chhabria was asked by Bayer to reverse the jury’s verdict in light of scientific evidence showing glyphosate to be safe, but Chhabria disagreed saying jurors had seen sufficient evidence that Monsanto did not care whether its products caused cancer.

The company faced more than 13,400 lawsuits nationwide and jury verdicts against Bayer had caused its share prices to plummet.

Bayer was also ordered to pay US$2bn in May to a California couple who developed cancer after using Roundup and US$78M to a former school groundskeeper in October 2018.

The company announced it had hired an external US lawyer, John H Beisner, to advise its supervisory board on trial issues, and had set up a committee to help resolve litigation, Reuters reported on 26 June.

“We are convinced that with his expertise, Beisner will provide very valuable and concrete advice on the ongoing litigation as well as mediation,” Bayer chairman Werner Wenning said.

The group said its new Supervisory Board committee, comprised of eight members, would consult the Board of Management and make recommendations on litigation strategy, Reuters wrote.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on 26 June that German farmers would eventually stop using glyphosate.