Judge cuts Bayer’s $1.5B Roundup verdict by more than 60%

By Staff
3 Min Read

Dive Brief:

  • A judge reduced a $1.5 billion jury verdict against Bayer’s Monsanto unit by more than 60% last month, the latest legal win for the company as it fights thousands of claims that its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer.
  • The ruling from the Cole County Circuit Court in Missouri slashes damages owed to $611 million total. A jury in November awarded four plaintiffs $1.5 billion in punitive damages and $61.2 million in compensatory damages.
  • The Supreme Court generally limits punitive damages to nine times the compensatory award. Bayer plans on appealing the verdict and maintains that glyphosate – the main ingredient in Roundup – is safe for use.

Dive Insight:

Bayer is ramping up its legal defenses to beat back a tidal wave of Roundup lawsuits that have weighed heavily on company earnings.

The agrichemical giant has added a litigation expert to its supervisory board and brought in new external counsel, CEO Bill Anderson said on an earnings call last month. In addition to appealing “every unfavorable verdict,” Bayer is engaging with policymakers to find other pathways to resolving the lawsuits.

“It’s clear that a strategy of defense alone is not enough,” Anderson told investors March 5. “We’re looking at the litigation topic from every angle, inside and outside the courtroom.”

The $1.5 billion verdict in Missouri was one of the largest awards in over five years of litigation surrounding the herbicide. In February, a California court reduced a $325 million verdict against Bayer by more than 90%.

Bayer has seen approximately 167,000 claims stemming from Roundup, with plaintiffs claiming that they developed cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using the product on their lawns or gardens. Although the majority of those cases have either been resolved or deemed ineligible, mounting litigation costs have become “a huge burden” on company financials, according to Anderson.

The company is hoping to put an end to the long-running litigation by seeking a review from the Supreme Court. It’s also pursuing legislative solutions — Iowa senators last week approved a proposal that would partially shield Bayer and other herbicide companies from future lawsuits.

“This is a top priority,” Anderson said in regards to containing litigation costs. “It’s not somewhere off to the side, but it’s front and center for us.”

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