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A California appeals court has determined that Bayer and its Monsanto subsidiary should pay $20.5 million in compensation to a California groundskeeper who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from Roundup, rejecting the manufacturers attempt to entirely reverse a lower court verdict.
In August 2018, a California Superior Court jury awarded DeWayne Johnson $289 million in the first Roundup case to go to trial in the United States, delivering a resounding message for Bayer about the liability it faces from Monsanto’s failure to warn consumers about the risks associated with Roundup.
In addition to compensatory damages, the original jury verdict included $250 million in punitive damages, which was intended to punish the company for withholding information about the link between the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, and the risk of non-Hodkins lymphoma.
Following post-trial motions, the judge presiding over the case reduced the Roundup damage award to $78 million, upholding the full amount of the $38 million in compensatory damages awarded, but reducing the punitive award to $50 million.
Since the verdict, Bayer has been seeking to overturn the decision, continuing to maintain that Roundup is safe and does not cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma. However, following a string of subsequent losses at trial and facing more than 125,000 Roundup lawsuits being pursued by former users of the weedkiller, Bayer recently announced an agreement to pay more than $10 billion to resolve about two-thirds of the litigation.
While the individual Roundup settlements are proceeding, Bayer has continued to pursue an appeal of the verdict in the Johnson cases, as well as other losses at trial.
Bayer has attempted to argue that the trial verdicts should be overturned since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviewed and approved the Roundup warning label, indicating that should make the company immune from liability for failing to warn consumers. However, the recent ruling by a California appeals court in San Francisco rejected that argument.
Although the total amount of damages awarded to Johnson was further reduced to about $20.5 million, the ruling by the appellate court results in another failure of Bayer to convince any court that they should not be required to compensate former users of Roundup diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The ruling is likely to further increase pressure on Bayer to negotiate settlements in thousands of cases that remain unresolved. However, the company is also likely to face years of future litigation over failure to warn about the risks associated with Roundup, as former users may continue to develop non-Hodgkins lymphoma for years in the future.