Bayer AG disclosed this week that 9,300 lawsuits are pending as of the end of October 2018. The quickly expanding group of lawsuits allege that Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate cause cancer.
Plaintiffs argue that Roundup, which Bayer bought as part of its takeover of Monsanto, made them ill with such cancers as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They also claim the company knew or should have known of the health risks but did not warn them.
Bayer has rejected these accusations. It claims there are hundreds of studies and regulatory authorities that show that glyphosate, which is the compound in the weed killers, is entirely safe for consumer and business use.
Bayer has stated that it continues to believe it has strong defenses for the use of Roundup and it intends to defend itself from all the roundup lawsuits, according to Bayer CEO Werner Baumann. But he did concede that more lawsuits are to be expected.
There were 8,700 lawsuits against the company at the end of August 2018.
Baumann claims that glyphosate is a vital chemical in modern agriculture that is safe for human use, very effective and saves many resources. When the product is used appropriately, glyphosate is a good, safe product.
The number of product liability lawsuits against Monsanto recently are rising and could cost Bayer billions of dollars in the next several years. The boom in lawsuits follows a $289 million verdict in California where Monsanto was ordered to pay compensatory and punitive damages to a former groundskeeper who alleged that its glyphosate-based weed killers, including Roundup, caused his cancer.
And last week, a California judge let stand the verdict that the weed killer did cause Johnson’s cancer.
However, for now, the EPA continues to maintain that glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer. It labeled glyphosate a carcinogen in 1985, but changed its official position six years later. The WHO cancer research agency has classified glyphosate as ‘probably carcinogenic’ as of 2015, and California listed glyphosate in its Prop. 65 registry of chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
Monsanto – Acted With Malice?
Bayer, founded in 1863, has been attempting to fend off concerns about the serious legal liability it may have taken on with the Monsanto acquisition. Glyphosate accounted for approximately ¼ of Monsanto sales when it was its own company. But the US business also made solid revenue by the selling of crop seeds that were genetically modified to handle the herbicide.
Bayer, a German company, has repeatedly pointed to scientific evidence that suggests glyphosate is safe. The herbicide has been used for 40 years and is the most commonly used weed killer on the planet.
While San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos did lower the punitive damages award for Dewayne Johnson from $250 million to $78.5 million in his Roundup cancer cause, she did not throw out the jury decision that the company acted with malice. She did not order a new trial after a ruling in September indicated she was leaning that way. The decision this week to let the ruling stand is going to force Bayer to spend a lot more money going through the California Court of Appeals.
Dewayne Johnson claimed that his years of using Roundup gave him terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. There was a study by WHO two years ago that suggested active ingredient glyphosate may cause cancer that unleashed a huge worldwide controversy over the chemical.
Legal experts maintain the San Francisco ruling will not have immediate legal repercussions on the thousands of other lawsuits; they predict months and possibly years of appeals. A trial court decision in San Francisco also is not binding in other courts. California appeals court decisions are only binding in courts in California but not on state court actions in other states.
Bayer will not consider settling any of the pending lawsuits until enough trial court decisions have piled up.
- Bayer Hit By More Lawsuits Over Safety of Roundup Weedkiller. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/bayer-hit-by-more-lawsuits-over-safety-of-roundup-weedkiller-1542098262
- Bayer Feels Monsanto Take Over US Roundup Ruling. (2018). Retrieved by https://global.handelsblatt.com/companies/bayer-feels-pain-monsanto-takeover-us-roundup-ruling-974949
- Monsanto Weed Killer Ruling Is First Step in Long Legal Battle. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/business/monsanto-weed-killer-ruling-is-1st-step-in-long-legal-battle/
- 8700 Lawsuits Over Glyphosate. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/bayers-monsanto-8700-lawsuits-over-glyphosate-2018-09-05