Nov 19 (Reuters) – A Missouri jury ordered Bayer (BAYGn.DE) to pay $1.56 billion to four plaintiffs who alleged the company’s Roundup weedkiller caused injuries including cancer, a verdict that eases pressure of investors on the German pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals company could increase its legal strategy.
A jury in Cole County, Missouri, ruled Friday that Bayer’s Monsanto company was liable for claims of negligence, design defects and failure to warn plaintiffs of the potential dangers of using Roundup, court documents show.
Valorie Gunther of New York, Jimmy Draeger of Missouri and Daniel Anderson of California received a combined $61.1 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages. Each was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which they claimed was caused by the use of Roundup on their family property. Draeger’s wife Brenda received $100,000 for damages she allegedly suffered from her husband’s illness.
The punitive damages could be reduced on appeal because they exceed U.S. Supreme Court guidelines.
Bayer has said that decades of research have shown that Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, are safe for human use.
The verdict is the fourth straight court loss for Bayer, after the company was found not liable to plaintiffs in nine consecutive lawsuits. Earlier this month, Union Investment, one of Bayer’s 10 largest shareholders, called on the company to consider engaging with plaintiffs to settle more cases.
Bart Rankin, a partner at Forrest Weldon, who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the victory was the first of many on behalf of thousands of plaintiffs.
Bayer said in a statement that it has strong arguments to have the recent judgments overturned on appeal.
It says that in the recent lawsuits against the company, the courts wrongly allowed plaintiffs to misrepresent the European Union’s glyphosate renewal process and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety assessment.
The European Commission said last week it would extend the approval of glyphosate based on safety assessments from the European Food Agency and the European Chemicals Agency, after EU member states failed to provide clear advice on the extension.
About 165,000 claims have been filed against the company for personal injuries allegedly caused by Roundup, which Bayer acquired as part of its $63 billion purchase of agrochemical company Monsanto in 2018.
In 2020, Bayer settled most of the pending Roundup cases for up to $10.9 billion. According to regulatory filings, approximately 50,000 claims are still pending.
Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Bill Berkrot
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