Bayer Seeks U.S. Supreme Court Review of Another Roundup Lymphoma Verdict

Bayer claims the Roundup lymphoma verdict imposed excessive punitive damages and claims it is protected from liability by the EPA's decision that Roundup is safe.

Bayer is again making a last ditch effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and save it from a massive verdict over failure to warn about the link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as thousands of similar lawsuits continue to move through the U.S. court system.

While the company is still awaiting a decision about whether the highest appeals court in the country will even consider reviewing a $25 million judgment in a federal case that went to trial in March 2019, a writ of certiorari was filed this week in a separate case, where the company has been ordered to pay $87 million to a California couple who were each diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and had their claims go before a state-court jury in May 2019.

Bayer and its Monsanto unit have faced tens of thousands of Roundup lawsuits filed by former users diagnosed with lymphoma after regular use of the controversial glyphosate-based weed killer, each raising similar allegations that information has been withheld from consumers for decades about the risks associated with exposure to Roundup.

Although it is rare for the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review of a civil verdict, only agreeing to consider less than 1% of all claims presented, Bayer has rested much of its legal defense strategy on the hope that a favorable ruling by the Justices will stem the tide of new cases and potentially end the litigation.

This appeal comes after a California state court jury determined that Bayer’s Monsanto subsidiary should be required to pay $55 million in compensatory damages to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, as well as $2 billion in punitive damages designed to punish the company for recklessly disregarding the health and safety of consumers by failing to warn about the cancer risks associated with the popular weed killer. That jury award was later reduced to just under $87 million, including $17 million in compensatory damages and $69 million in punitive damages.

After the verdict was upheld by state appeals courts in California, Bayer petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court this week, arguing that the entire case should have been pre-empted by federal law, since the EPA authorized the sale of Roundup. The company also indicates that the punitive damages award should be overturned, claiming that it is excessive and unconstitutional.

Another writ of certiorari is already pending, which seeks a similar review for a $25 million verdict returned by a federal jury, which primarily centers on the pre-emption defense. In December 2021, the Supreme Court asked the U.S. Solicitor General for its opinion about whether the Roundup appeal should be considered.

Bayer has already agreed to pay billions in Roundup settlements, but thousands of cases remain unresolved and new lawsuits continue to be filed as former users continue to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. However, Bayer has suspended settlement negotiations until a decision is reached by the Supreme Court about whether it will rule on the pre-emption issue.

If the Roundup Supreme Court appeals are not successful, Bayer has told investors that it will move forward with a claims administration program to address future lawsuits.

In addition, the company has announced that it will remove the active ingredient glyphosate from Roundup products sold to U.S. residential customers by 2023, to limit the future liability it will face.

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