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In May 2019, a California jury handed down a $2 billion verdict in the third Roundup trial to result in a plaintiffs’ verdict. The couple who brought the lawsuit claimed they developed cancer after using the weed killer and its active herbicide glyphosate for many years, and the jury agreed that the evidence supported their claim.

Bloomberg reports that this was the largest jury award in the country so far this year, and the eighth largest ever in a product-defect claim. As manufacturer Bayer’s stock declines, the company is feeling the pressure to consider settling the remaining Roundup litigation.

Bayer Takes a Defensive Stance in Roundup Litigation

So far, Bayer has continued to fight in the courts, vowing to appeal the three verdicts that have not gone their way. Those include the following:

  • In August 2018, a San Francisco jury awarded $289 million to a former school groundskeeper who claimed he developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup for years. That judgment was later reduced to $78 million.
  • In March 2019, another San Francisco jury awarded $80 million to a man who claimed Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • In May 2019, an Alameda County court jury ordered Bayer to pay $2 billion in compensation to a couple who developed cancer after using Roundup on their property for years.

More than 13,000 additional Roundup lawsuits are pending in both state and federal litigation, and so far even after the large successive plaintiffs’ verdicts, Bayer has continued to defend its weed killer.

Bayer noted, for example, that the verdicts contradict recent findings by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which determined in an interim registration review decision released in April 2019 that there are “no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”

Other government agencies disagree, however. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labeled glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.” Juries have also seemingly responded to evidence from internal Monsanto documents that suggest the manufacturer influenced regulators and edited studies and reviews on the product to obtain favorable results.

Bayer Feeling the Pressure to Settle

Bloomberg reports that Bayer is feeling the pressure and that their third court loss came just two weeks after “shareholders disavowed Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann at a meeting in Germany, lambasting his handling of the $63 billion Monsanto Co. acquisition.” Litigation has eroded the company’s value by more than 40 percent since they took over Monsanto in June 2018.

Monsanto patented glyphosate in the early 1970s as the active ingredient in Roundup and released the weed killer onto the market in 1974. By the 1980s, it had become one of the best-selling herbicides available.

The patent expired in the year 2000, and other products now market glyphosate, but lawsuits have targeted Monsanto and Roundup, in particular. Glyphosate is rarely used on its own and is usually combined with other chemicals and ingredients to create an herbicide formulation. Certain surfactants help the herbicide enter plant cells, and additives help extend shelf life.

Some studies have compared glyphosate alone with Roundup and found that the two have different effects on living things. Some studies, including one published in 2005, showed that Roundup was more toxic to animals in the lab than glyphosate alone.

After the third trial ended in a verdict favoring the plaintiffs, U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria, who is overseeing the consolidated federal litigation in the Northern District of California, ordered the parties into mediation to discuss potential settlement.

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