Another US Court Slashes Product Liability Damages in Glyphosate-Cancer Litigation

In last week’s edition of BC Disease News (here), we reported that punitive damages, awarded to the 2nd claimant who successfully convinced a US jury that cumulative exposure to glyphosate-containing Roundup weedkiller causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma, were reduced by 73% ($55 million) to $20 million.

As a result, District Judge Vince Chhabria slashed the total damages award to $25.3 million from $75.3 million – a 66% drop.

We also reported that Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, who presided over the 3rd trial by jury verdict in Oakland, California, was poised to do the same.

Last Thursday, Bayer asked the California Superior Court judge to overturn the decision on liability and strike out the damages award.

However, Judge Smith refused to accept Bayer’s request, reasoning that:

‘In this case there was clear and convincing evidence that Monsanto made efforts to impede, discourage, or distort scientific inquiry and the resulting science’.

Although there were grounds to compensate the claimant couple and punish Roundup’s manufacturer, Monsanto (owned by Bayer), the magnitude of the award was significantly trimmed down, as anticipated.[i]

When the original jury verdict was first announced, the ‘excessive’ and ‘unconstitutional’ $2 billion award was hundreds of millions of dollars ahead of preceding trial-by-jury awards, with the landmark trial already having been reduced to $78 million – we reported this in edition 252 (here).

The new total award, of $86.7 million (consisting of $17 million in compensatory damages and $69 million in punitive damages), retains the title of the most financially burdensome award to-date, but by a much narrower margin.

Reuters predicted that punitive damages could shrink by 89% to $220 million, but were actually brought down by 97%.

Bayer maintains its stance that any reduction in damages is ‘a step in the right direction’, but has stated its intentions to file a further appeal:

‘We continue to believe that the verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial and conflict with the extensive body of reliable science and conclusions of leading health regulators worldwide that confirms glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic’.

 

[i] Tina Bellon, ‘In Roundup case, U.S. judge cuts $2 billion verdict against Bayer to $86 million’ (26 July 2019 Reuters) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bayer-glyphosate-lawsuit/in-roundup-case-u-s-judge-cuts-2-billion-verdict-against-bayer-to-86-million-idUSKCN1UL03G> accessed 31 July 2019.