A California court is hearing arguments in the first case to go trial on the $289 million Bayer Roundup lawsuit over the link between their weedkiller and cancer. Consumers have filed tens of thousands of similar lawsuits against Bayer that are pending.
Agrochemical giant Bayer made its first arguments in early June in its appeal to overturn a $289 million verdict against the company in a case alleging that its Roundup weedkiller product causes cancer.
Johnson used Roundup and Ranger Pro, another herbicide sold by Bayer, regular in his job, spraying them on sports fields and school grounds. But two years after he began using the chemicals at work, he began developing rashes and skin irritation.
Johnson testified that he always followed safety precautions for Roundup exactly, wearing protective gear. As the rashes worsened, he developed lesions and marks on his face. A doctor soon told him it was cancer—non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.
When Johnson first took Bayer to court in 2016, it was the first time the company went to trial over the link between glyphosate and cancer, though two other Bay Area cases followed soon after, with juries also awarding damages in the tens of millions of dollars.
The jury in Johnson’s Bayer Roundup lawsuit ruled that the company would pay him $250 million in punitive damages and $39.2 million for losses. “They have been hiding for years and getting away with it,” Johnson said at the time about Bayer. “They have to pay the price for not being honest and putting people’s health at risk for the sake of making a profit.”
Judge Suzanne Bolanos later reduced the punitive damages from $250 million to $39 million.
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When Monsanto first began selling Roundup in 1974, it marketed the chemical as an herbicide to effectively wipe out weeds—without hurting humans. The product was globally successful and is used in over 130 countries.
But as researchers looked deeper into the health risks of Roundup, they found that a key ingredient, glyphosate, to be a carcinogen. In 2015, the World Health Organization re-classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Johnson’s Bayer Roundup lawsuit case is notable in part because the judge allowed his lawyers to raise scientific arguments about glyphosate in court, to prove the link between Roundup and cancer. Johnson’s lawyers also argued that Bayer misled the scientific community and regulators for years as to the possible risks of glyphosate.
The pharmaceutical and biotechnology company has already reached verbal agreements to settle out of court on an estimated 50-85,000 other lawsuits over their weedkiller. The Bayer Roundup lawsuits settlements will range from thousands of dollars to the single-digit millions, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
According to St. Louis attorney James Onder, Bayer is trying “to strong-arm the most vulnerable in our society into accepting minuscule settlements, hoping they will cower in fear to Monsanto’s repeated idle threats of bankruptcy.”
Bayer has reportedly allocated $8 billion to settle all existing US lawsuits and an additional $2 billion for possible future suits.
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