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Bayer hit with $332m Roundup-cancer verdict by jury

Bayer hit with $332m Roundup-cancer verdict by jury
Roundup weed killing products are offered for sale at a home improvement store on May 14, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Bayer AG’s Monsanto unit was ordered by a California jury to pay $332-million to a former land surveyor who blamed his cancer on his use of the company’s controversial Roundup weedkiller – the third trial loss this month for the company.

Jurors in state court in San Diego on Tuesday awarded Michael Dennis, 57, a total of $7-million in actual damages and $325-million in punitive damages over his claims that 35 years of using Roundup on his lawns and gardens caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 

Until this month, Bayer had won nine Roundup cases in a row. The company has reserved $16-billion so far to deal with the costs of the litigation.

“We respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict and believe that we have strong arguments on appeal to get this unfounded verdict overturned and the unconstitutionally excessive damage award eliminated or reduced, given that there were significant and reversible legal and evidentiary errors made during this trial,” Bayer said in an emailed statement. The company has steadfastly maintained Roundup poses no cancer risk and has pointed to a series of defence verdicts in other recent trials.

Bayer said in securities filings last year it has faced 154,000 claims so far from Roundup users who attribute their cancer to the weed killer. By the end of 2022, almost 110,000 were settled or dismissed. The company has vowed to pull Roundup off store shelves by the end of this year.

Read More: Bayer US Court Verdict Raises Prospect of More Roundup Pain

Bayer’s new chief executive officer, Bill Anderson, has been reviewing the company’s strategy and structure since taking over in June. The Texas native has said nothing is off the table as he seeks to win back the faith of investors and navigate the company out of a thicket of legal and other challenges.

The company faces a new wave of Roundup trials in state courts across the US. Last week, it was ordered by a Philadelphia jury to pay a retired pizza-shop owner $175-million in damages over his cancer. A jury in state court in St. Louis this month awarded $1.25-million to another man who blamed his cancer on the weed killer.

The recent plaintiffs’ trial wins may signal Bayer will be forced to tap most or all of the $16-billion it has provisioned for Roundup cases, Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note on Monday. 

Jurors in Dennis’ case concluded Monsanto failed to properly warn the surveyor about Roundup’s health risks, defectively designed the herbicide and deserved to pay punishment damages over its mishandling of the product.

“The jury listened to the evidence and told Monsanto enough is enough,” Adam Peavy, a lawyer for Dennis, said in an email. “They’ve been selling this dangerous product for years. It’s time they paid the price.”

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