May 14, 2021 – San Francisco, California - - Bayer AG suffered another significant legal loss on Friday when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied the company’s bid to overturn a Roundup verdict worth millions.
Bayer acquired agrichemical giant Monsanto in 2018. With the acquisition, Bayer took on thousands of lawsuits filed against Monsanto on behalf of gardeners, farmers, agricultural workers, and others who allege exposure to Roundup—Monsanto’s flagship herbicide—causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In 2019, plaintiff Edwin Hardeman testified at trial that he developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after spraying Roundup weed killer for years on his large plot of land in Northern California. After weeks of trial proceedings, the jury awarded Mr. Hardeman more than $80 million in damages. The trial judge later reduced the jury verdict to $25 million.
Bayer appealed the decision based on the argument that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory authority over labeling herbicides like Roundup prohibited the company from changing its product label in a way that departs from federal requirements. Bayer contended that the trial verdict was improper because federal law preempted California state law requiring the company to warn of Roundup’s cancer risks.
The three-judge appeal court panel disagreed with Bayer’s arguments and affirmed the $25 million verdict, including punitive damages. In its decision, the panel also held that “punitive damages were permissible under California law because substantial evidence was presented that Monsanto acted with malice by, among other things, ignoring Roundup’s carcinogenic risks.”
Mr. Hardeman’s case was the second of three Roundup cases to go before juries. Bayer lost all three trials, with jury verdicts totaling roughly $2.424 billion. While all three jury verdicts were later reduced, the average payout amounts to approximately $33 million per plaintiff.
In June of 2020, Bayer lost its appeal of the first trial verdict in Johnson v. Monsanto Co. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson will receive $20.5 million, as Bayer declined to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. The other case filed on behalf of a California couple, Pilliod et al. v. Monsanto Co., remains on appeal. If the reduced verdict holds, Alva and Alberta Pilliod will receive a total of $87 million in damages.
In June of last year, Bayer completed settlement negotiations with several of the leading law firms representing Roundup clients. While each of the firms negotiated private settlements, Bayer agreed to pay a total of nearly $11 billion to settle tens of thousands of pending cases.
Law Firms Representing Mr. Hardeman Issue Statement on Roundup Appeal Win
“Mr. Hardeman is very pleased that the Ninth Circuit affirmed the jury’s verdict. The Court ruled that ‘substantial evidence of Monsanto’s malice was presented to the jury, supporting punitive damages.” Internal emails showed that Monsanto knew of the risk of cancer and failed to warn consumers like Mr. Hardeman. Today is significant for consumers holding pesticide companies like Monsanto accountable for causing thousands of people cancer.”