A Pennsylvania jury dealt a huge blow to Bayer AG when they said the company’s Monsanto unit had to pay over $2 billion in damages to a former groundskeeper who said that years of working with the famous weed killer Roundup gave him non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The decision includes $2 billion in punitive damages and $250 million in compensatory damages. This is one of Bayer’s biggest losses in court over claims that glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in Roundup, can cause cancer. This is the latest case that Bayer has to deal with from people who say the company didn’t tell them about the risks of its products.
In his job as a groundskeeper for more than 20 years, the plaintiff, John McKivision, used Roundup. His lawyers were able to prove that his repeated exposure to glyphosate led to his later diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s cancer. They said that Monsanto was hiding important safety information about Roundup while strongly telling people that it was safe.
“Today’s ruling sends a strong message that companies cannot get away with lying about dangerous products in order to make money,” McKivision’s lawyer, Jason Itkin, said in a statement after the decision. He said it was a “bellwether moment in the battle for corporate accountability.”
It was said that Bayer would file an appeal and is sure that its pesticide, which is used all over the world, is safe. The company said in a statement that the jury’s award of punitive damages was “excessive and unconstitutional” and that it has good reasons to get it thrown out or lowered.
Even though Bayer argued against it, the shocking $2 billion decision is the latest blow to the company as it fights multidistrict litigation with more than 50,000 plaintiffs. They have not been able to come to an omnibus settlement deal yet. This year there are more studies planned, which makes it more important for Bayer to limit its liability for Roundup.
After years of debate, the decision also adds to the doubts about how safe the herbicide is. Two U.S. government agencies have said that glyphosate probably doesn’t cause cancer in people, but the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm said in 2015 that it probably does.
It’s been a rough time for Bayer since it bought Monsanto in 2018. The legal and social damage keeps coming in at a bad time. Since the merger, the value of the company’s shares has dropped by more than 30%. The Roundup scandal is still hanging over Bayer’s head, as lawsuits are likely to last for years more.