Friday 24 May 2019

Bayer's $2bn Roundup damages defeat piles on pressure to settle cases

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann. Photo: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann. Photo: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Joel Rosenblatt and Tim Loh

Bayer has been ordered to pay more than $2bn in damages to a California couple who claimed they got cancer as a result of using its Roundup weedkiller, raising pressure on the company to settle thousands of similar lawsuits.

It's the largest jury award in the US so far this year and the eighth-largest ever in a product-defect claim. The verdict prompted analysts to boost their estimates on the value of a settlement.

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Bayer's third Roundup court loss comes two weeks after shareholders lambasted CEO Werner Baumann over the $63bn Monsanto acquisition. The verdict puts the onus on Bayer to alter its defence course and consider a settlement: litigation concerns have eroded Bayer's value by more than 40pc since the deal was sealed in June. The stock declined 2.3pc yesterday after initially dropping to a seven-year low.

"The company has got to come to the table with a viable plan to resolve these cases, or the losses are going to mount," said Micah Dortch, of the Potts Law Firm in Dallas, which has filed dozens of Roundup cases. "This outcome should make Monsanto realise the seriousness of these claims and how a jury perceives the evidence." Bayer vowed to challenge the ruling, calling it "excessive and unjustifiable".

Bayer has defended the safety of Roundup's active ingredient glyphosate since inheriting the product from Monsanto. It said the verdict "conflicts directly" with a EPA review and added: "The consensus among leading health regulators worldwide is that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic."

A jury in Oakland, California, found Alva and Alberta Pilliod's exposure to Roundup was a "substantial factor" in their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It issued the verdict after two other California trials yielded damages of $159m. Bayer is scheduled to defend against similar claims this summer.

Bloomberg

Irish Independent

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