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Bayer Seeks to Overturn First Roundup Verdict, As More Trials Scheduled Throughout 2019

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While evidence is continuing to be presented to a California jury involving claims brought by a husband and wife both diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma from Roundup exposure, and additional cases are set for trial throughout the rest of this year, Bayer is asking a California appeals court to overturn a $78 million verdict last year in the first case to go before a jury, claiming there is insufficient evidence to establish that the controversial weedkiller causes cancer.

On Wednesday, Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup weed killer, filed a motion with the California Court of Appeals seeking to throw out a judgment in favor of Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper whose claim was expedited for trial last summer since he is dying from non-Hodgkins lymphoma allegedly caused by years of using the glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup.

After considering evidence in that trial, Johnson was initially awarded $289 million, including about $39 million in compensatory damages and another $250 million in punitive damages, which were designed to punish Monsanto for withholding the Roundup cancer risk from consumers.

Following post-trial motions, the judge decided there was sufficient evidence to uphold the full amount of the compensatory damages, but the punitive damages were reduced to an equal amount, resulting in the final judgment of over $78 million, which Bayer is now appealing.

Bayer currently faces Roundup lawsuits filed in state and federal courts throughout the United States that involve about 13,400 plaintiffs, each raising similar allegations that the recently acquired Monsanto unit knew or should have known about the link between glyphosate and cancer, yet actively concealed the information and failed to provide consumers with accurate warnings and safety instructions.

The company is asking the California appeals court to throw out the first Roundup verdict, continuing to maintain that there is no evidence that the weedkiller causes cancer, even though a number of courts and juries have reached a very different conclusion.

In the federal court system, all Roundup claims are centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, the federal litigation was bifurcated into two phases, first requiring plaintiffs to establish causation before allowing any individual claims to go before a jury. However, after considering all of the expert testimony, Judge Chhabria determined last year that the plaintiffs have presented sufficient evidence to allow juries to consider whether individual plaintiffs’ cancer diagnosis was caused by Roundup.

In March, the first federal bellwether trial resulted in a similar an $80 million verdict for a consumer who developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma after years of spraying Roundup around his home.

Following that verdict, Judge Chhabria ordered the parties to engage in confidential mediation before the Court starts remanding cases back to different U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trials.

As a number of different fact finders continue to find that Roundup does cause cancer, the litigation is taking a toll on Bayer, which indicated in a recent earnings report that the number of claims is up 20% over the past few months. Investors are now increasing pressure on the company to resolve the claims, and some estimates suggest that a Roundup settlement would cost the company around $6 billion.

Over the remainder of 2019, Bayer will face at least four more trials, including cases in Missouri and Montana state courts.

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