Bayer Loses Round One of Roundup Appeals

22.07.2020 - In the ongoing litigation over whether Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide causes cancer, Bayer has suffered another setback, losing its appeal of the first of three US jury verdicts against it – even though the California Court of Appeals in San Francisco further slashed the 2018 damage award to $20.4 million.

A judge overseeing the original trial had already reduced that jury’s award from $289.2 million to $78 million. School groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, like the plaintiffs in other Roundup cases, blamed the herbicide for his non-Hodgkins lymphoma. 

While Johnson’s lawyers hailed the appeals ruling as “another major victory” for their client, they criticized the reduction in damages as a function of a “deep flaw” in state law that makes it difficult to have money awarded for a shortened lifespan.

For different reasons, both sides may now consider asking the California Supreme Court to review the lower courts’ decisions. Despite welcoming the damage reduction as “a step in the right direction,” Bayer said it continues to believe that upholding the verdict against it was “inconsistent with the evidence at trial and the law.”

Here, the German group argued that the initial ruling should have been voided, in part because it conflicts with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) stance that Roundup’s principal active ingredient glyphosate is not a carcinogen.


Appeals judges “underwhelmed” by IARC criticism

The appeals court’s three-judge panel said, however, that Johnson had presented abundant and “certainly substantial” evidence that glyphosate, together with other ingredients in Roundup products, caused his cancer.

At the same time, the panel said it was “underwhelmed” by Bayer’s argument that the recommendation of the World Health Organization-attached International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” was not consistent with mainstream scientific thinking.

Bayer is trying to reach agreements with lawyers handling around a quarter of the cases who have not yet reacted to proposed offer of $10.9 billion to settle all outstanding claims. Last month, lawyers representing 75% of the known 125,000 cases accepted the agreement.

Some of the holdout lawyers said this week’s appeals verdict had convinced them that the time to settle had not yet come, and observers said this could potentially convince others to follow suit.

The pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals giant, which acquired Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018, saw itself compelled to rethink a component of its settlement proposal after another California judge said recently he was inclined the reject it.

Judge Vince Chhabria must approve Bayer’s settlement of the remaining cases for $1.25 billion. Chhabria said he didn’t like the chemical group’s plans to create a science advisory panel to pass judgment on whether Roundup can actually cause cancer.