6 Dec 2023

Bayer ordered to pay $3.5 million in latest Roundup weedkiller trial

3:11 pm on 6 December 2023

By Brendan Pierson

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Bayer has had to pay in a string of trial losses relating to its weedkiller Roundup. Photo: 123RF

Bayer was ordered on Tuesday to pay nearly $3.5 million by a Philadelphia jury that found the company's Roundup weedkiller caused a woman's cancer, the company said.

It is the latest in a string of trial losses for the company as it tries to fend off thousands of similar lawsuits.

The verdict in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas marks the fifth consecutive loss for Bayer, but it is much smaller than recent verdicts against the company that total $2 billion. The German conglomerate has faced pressure from some investors to reach a speedy settlement of the litigation in order to avoid further hefty trial verdicts.

The verdict includes US$462,500 in compensatory damages and $3m in punitive damages.

"We disagree with the jury's divided verdict and the modest damages award that conflicts with the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and worldwide regulatory and scientific assessments, and believe that we have strong arguments on appeal to get this verdict overturned," Bayer said in a statement.

A lawyer for the plaintiff, Pennsylvania resident Kelly Martel, did not immediately comment.

Bayer has been hit with much larger verdicts in similar cases in recent months, including a $1.56b award in November for three plaintiffs. The company has said those trials were marred by procedural errors and has vowed to appeal.

Like most plaintiffs in Roundup cases, Martel alleged in the most recent case that she developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer, from exposure to the product. Bayer argued at trial that Martel's cancer was more likely caused by her smoking.

Bayer has said that decades of studies, and regulators around the world, have found Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, are safe for human use. The US Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that glyphosate likely does not threaten human health, but was ordered by a federal appeals court last year to revisit that decision.

The World Health Organisation's cancer research agency concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was likely capable of causing cancer. It did not reach a conclusion about whether it posed a risk under real world conditions of use.

Bayer said in early November it would remain very selective when considering settlements of Roundup cases and reassured investors in a call in late November that it has reserves to deal with the litigation. The company has set aside about $6.5b for that purpose.

Around 165,000 claims have been made against the company for personal injuries allegedly caused by Roundup, which Bayer acquired as part of its $63b purchase of US agrochemical company Monsanto in 2018.

In 2020, Bayer settled most of the then-pending Roundup cases for up to $9.6b but failed to get a settlement covering future cases. More than 50,000 claims remain pending.

- Reuters

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