Bayer's Monsanto faces broad U.S. glyphosate litigation
By Tina Bellon
Sept 19 (Reuters) - Bayer AG's Monsanto unit has
urged a California judge to toss the $289-million verdict a jury
awarded to a man who said the company's glyphosate-based
weed-killers, including the widely-used Roundup brand, caused
The company filed a post-trial motion on Tuesday for
California Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos in San Francisco
to set aside the Aug. 10 jury verdict, reduce the award or grant
a new trial, saying there was insufficient evidence for the jury
to conclude glyphosate caused the man's disease.
Bayer denies allegations that glyphosate, the world's most
widely used weed-killer, causes cancer and said it would appeal
the verdict if necessary.
The jury awarded $39 million in compensatory damages and
$250 million in punitive damages to school groundskeeper Dewayne
Johnson, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer
of the lymph system, in 2014.
Here are details of the U.S. litigation over glyphosate and
an outline of the appeals process in the case.
What is the significance of this case?
It marks the world's first jury verdict in a lawsuit
alleging that glyphosate causes cancer. The decision sent Bayer
shares sliding, with the stock continuing to trade more than 20
percent below its Aug. 9 value.
By the end of July, Bayer's Monsanto unit faced 8,000
glyphosate lawsuits in United States federal and state courts,
some of which could go to trial before year-end or in early
Many investors in Bayer, which bought Monsanto for $63
billion this year, were caught off guard by the ruling and
analysts continue to assess the deal's legal risks.
What are the scientific arguments?
Monsanto denies that its glyphosate products can cause
cancer, saying decades of scientific studies have shown the
weed-killer to be safe for humans.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September last
year concluded the chemical was probably not carcinogenic to
humans, and the European Union in 2017 also extended the license
for use of glyphosate for five years after a heated debate.
But the cancer division of the World Health Organization in
2015 concluded glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans,"
and plaintiffs have widely cited that finding.
At the center of Bayer's defense is the U.S.
government-backed November 2017 Agricultural Health Study. The
largest human study on pesticides published, it found no
statistically significant link between glyphosate and cancer in
about 57,000 U.S. agricultural workers observed since the early
But plaintiffs in the litigation question the validity of
the study, saying there were problems with it methodology that
caused glyphosate exposure to be underestimated.
What is at stake for Bayer?
Bayer said in an Aug. 23 call with analysts it did not
expect any short-term effects from the Johnson verdict on
glyphosate sales. Though it does not break out that figure, it
said glyphosates are a significant portion of revenue from its
agricultural productivity segment, which was $3.7 billion in
But analysts questioned whether Bayer had underestimated
legal risks in its Monsanto acquisition.
Berenberg analyst Alistair Campbell said resolving the issue
could cost Bayer $5 billion, citing a rough estimate based on
past product liability settlements such as Merck & Co Inc's
$4.9-billion settlement over painkiller Vioxx or Bayer's
$4.2-billion total settlement over the Baycol cholesterol drug.
The company has only set aside provisions for legal defense
costs, not damages.
How will Bayer appeal the verdict?
If Judge Bolanos denies its post-trial motion, Bayer has
said it will file an appeal, which could take the case to
California's Supreme Court and eventually the U.S. Supreme
Bayer's first appeal would be to the California superior
court's appellate division. The company said it would argue an
evidentiary ruling issued in May wrongly allowed Johnson's
expert witnesses to testify in front of the jury.
It said the trial judge also wrongly allowed lawyers and
experts for Johnson to "inflame" jurors with statements aimed at
casting Monsanto in a bad light.
Legal experts say Bayer's appeal could face an uphill climb.
(Reporting by Tina Bellon
Editing by Tom Brown and Clarence Fernandez)
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