Judge to Reduce Glyphosate-Cancer Damages, While Austria Edges Towards Complete Ban

In edition 269 of BC Disease News (here), we reported that Monsanto-owner, Bayer AG, had been ordered to pay more than $80 million in damages (compensatory – $5.3 million, punitive – $75 million and medical expenses – $200,000) to Edwin Hardeman, who successfully argued that cumulative exposure to glyphosate, the active chemical ingredient in Roundup herbicide, had caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in 2014.[i]

A 4th trial is scheduled to take place this summer.[ii]

On Tuesday, US District Judge Vince Chhabria, who delivered the 3rd trial verdict, announced that he will issue a ruling by the end of next week, which will likely reduce the original damages award, to the effect that Mr. Hardeman’s total award will be $50 million or less.[iii]

As well as exercising his constitutional right to reduce the punitive damages figure, he has also considered reducing the compensatory figure, having acknowledged that Mr. Hardeman is in full remission and is therefore less likely to experience the same level of pain and suffering as when he filed the claim.

In view of scientific and regulatory assessments finding glyphosate to be safe, Bayer had invited the Judge to reverse the March 2019 jury verdict. However, Judge Chhabria deemed that the jury was entitled to find in favour of the claimant on the evidence presented to them.

Without doubt, the fate of US lawsuits is having a global effect. Last week, Austria, the European Union (EU) Member State with the highest proportion of organic farmland (23%, compared to an EU average of 7%), became the first EU nation instigate an outright ban of glyphosate weedkiller, even though it is still technically licensed within the Union until December 2022.[iv]

Although Austria’s Lower House of Parliament, pending approval of the Upper House, has been successful in passing a Bill to that end, the Conservative People’s Party (OVP) has branded the new policy as ‘pure populism’.

Regardless, the Social Democrats, in collaboration with Freedom Party and NEOS, backed the Bill. In a statement, Leader of the Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, indicated that:

‘The scientific evidence of the plant poison’s carcinogenic effect is increasing. It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment’.

There are around 13,400 product litigation claims in the US alone which associate glyphosate use with cancer of the lymphatic system.

Facing growing pressure from shareholder activists, Bayer has set up a Supervisory Board Committee, comprising of 8 board members, which will consult with the Management Board on legal strategy, in an attempt to assist with the resolution of claims.[v] The business has also instructed additional legal representation to advise on trial tactics and mediation on an ongoing basis. The appointment is ‘intended to add fresh and independent perspectives’.

 

[i] In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2741, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

[ii] Joel Rosenblatt, ‘Bayer's $80 Million Roundup Verdict Will Probably Be Cut’ (3 July 2019 Bloomberg) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-03/roundup-award-of-80-million-against-bayer-will-probably-be-cut> accessed 3 July 2019.

[iii] Tina Bellon, ‘U.S. judge to slash $80 million Roundup jury verdict: court hearing’ (3 July 2019 Reuters) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bayer-glyphosate-lawsuit/u-s-judge-to-slash-80-million-roundup-jury-verdict-court-hearing-idUSKCN1TX32C> accessed 3 July 2019.

[iv] Francois Murphy and Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich, ‘Austrian parliament backs EU's first total ban of weedkiller glyphosate’ (2 July 2019 Reuters) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-austria-glyphosate/austrian-parliament-backs-eus-first-total-ban-of-weedkiller-glyphosate-idUSKCN1TX1JR> accessed 4 July 2019.

[v] Edward Taylor and Tassilo Hummel ‘Bayer's supervisory board hire lawyer for glyphosate litigation’ (26 June 2019 Reuters) <https://uk.reuters.com/article/bayer-glyphosate-mediator/bayers-supervisory-board-hire-lawyer-for-glyphosate-litigation-idUKFWN23X0VP> accessed 3 July 2019.