Jul. 29, 2019
Dow Jones reports:
Bayer AG succeeded in getting a third large trial verdict substantially reduced in litigation over the safety of its signature weedkiller, Roundup.
A California state court judge in Alameda County on Thursday trimmed a more than $2 billion award to $86.7 million in the case of a local husband and wife who each blamed non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnoses on Bayer's product.
Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco reduced a more than $80 million verdict to $25.3 million in the case of a Northern California resident with similar allegations.
Bayer, which inherited the Roundup litigation when it bought Monsanto Co. last year, has come under fire from investors after losing three trials in California tying Roundup to cancer. Bayer is now appealing or plans to appeal the verdicts, which have each been lowered by the judges who oversaw the trials.
Lawsuits over the safety of Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate
, began cropping up after a 2015 determination by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization unit, that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
Judge Winifred Smith denied a request by Bayer to completely throw out the verdict in the case of Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a married couple in their 70s who used Roundup on their San Francisco Bay Area property for 35 years. The two were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma four years apart, in 2011 and 2015, and are both in remission.
The judge found the evidence presented at trial supported the jury's finding that Roundup caused the Pilliods to get cancer and that Monsanto failed to warn about potential harms. She wrote that "there is evidence that Monsanto had information that was not available to the scientific or medical community and that it sought to impede, discourage, or distort scientific inquiry and the resulting science."
Brent Wisner, a lawyer for the Pilliods, called Thursday's order a major victory for his clients, though "we believe the reduction in damages does not fairly capture the pain and suffering experienced by Alva and Alberta."
Bayer said Thursday the reduced verdict is "a step in the right direction," but that the company continues to believe the verdict and damages "are not supported by the evidence at trial and conflict with the extensive body of reliable science and conclusions of leading health regulators."
Judge Smith also denied a motion by Monsanto to find that plaintiffs' lawyers committed misconduct during the trial, finding that while "counsel for plaintiff did on occasion overstate matters and violate the court's orders," it didn't result in a miscarriage of justice.
The judge found the $1 billion each in punitive damages the jury awarded to the Pilliods unconstitutionally high, and reduced the awards to roughly four times the amount of other damages, which she also cut down.
Several more Roundup trials are scheduled in the coming months, including one slated to begin in August in St. Louis County, home to much of the legacy Monsanto business.