The Latest $80 Million Cancer Judgment Is Just the Beginning of Roundup’s
WoesBayer’s share price has plunged 25 percent over the past two weeks. Tom
Philpott <> March 29, 2019
6:00 AM

Jeff Roberson/AP
On Wednesday afternoon, German chemical giant Bayer sustained another
costly legal defeat related to Monsanto, the US seed and pesticide giant it
subsumed last year. A US District Court jury in San Francisco awarded
plaintiff Edward Hardeman $80.3 million—including $75 million in
damages—after ruling that Monsanto’s blockbuster glyphosate-based Roundup
herbicides had caused his case of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. US District Judge
Vince Chhabria declared
<> it a
“bellwether” case, meaning <>
it gives both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys the opportunity to
test their arguments and shape their strategies for other litigation; there
are currently 1,600 cancer cases related to glyphosate waiting to be heard
by the Northern California District’s federal court.

On Thursday, yet another glyphosate trial opened in the Superior Court of
California for the County of Alameda. The plaintiffs, a married couple
named Alva and Alberta Pilliod, claim
long-term exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them both to develop
non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Theirs is the first of more than 250 Roundup cancer
cases consolidated
before Superior Court of California Judge Winifred Smith.

In the first part of the Hardeman trial
which wrapped up on March 18, the jury ruled that the plaintiff proved “by
a preponderance of the evidence” that his exposure to Roundup was a
“substantial factor” in causing his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (Read my piece on
some of this evidence here
In the second phase
the same jury was asked to decide whether Hardeman had shown that Roundup
is a “defective” product, that it “lacks sufficient warnings of the risk of
NHL” and that “Monsanto was negligent by not using reasonable care to warn
about Roundup’s [non-Hodgkin lymphoma] risk.” The jury ruled in Hardeman’s
favor on all three.

In a Wednesday afternoon statement
Bayer vowed to appeal the verdict, adding that “we are disappointed with
the jury’s decision, but this verdict does not change the weight of over
four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators
worldwide that support the safety of our glyphosate-based herbicides and
that they are not carcinogenic.”

The company’s share price has plunged nearly 25 percent
<> since the
phase-one verdict on March 18, and by more than 40 percent since mid-August
2018, when a California Superior Court jury awarded school groundskeeper
Dewayne Johnson $289 million in damages after ruling that Roundup exposure
had caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (The award was later reduced
to $78 million—roughly equal to the damages decided in the Hardeman case.)

Overall, since finalizing its deal to buy Monsanto in June 2018, Bayer has
seen its market valuation drop from about $100 billion to an estimated $60
billion, according to calculations by Jonas Oxgaard, an analyst who covers
the chemical industry for the brokerage firm Bernstein.

In response to Wednesday’s decision, the government of Vietnam announced
<> a ban on
imports of glyphosate-based herbicides.

If juries keep deciding against Bayer and awarding large damages, the
company faces catastrophic losses. According to the *Wall Street Journ*
*Bayer still faces lawsuits from 11,200 farmers, gardeners, and other
Roundup users. If just about 750 of them reach the $75 million to $80
million level awarded to Hardeman and Johnson, total payouts would approach
$60 billion—equal to Bayer’s current market valuation.

But “you can only squeeze so much blood out of a rock,” Oxgaard said. One
way to limit such massive losses would be to avert the lawsuits by reaching
a settlement with the complainants. “I think Bayer will [ultimately]
settle, but it will be a while,” he said. “First they will appeal.” Bayer,
for its part, says it “stands behind” its glyphosate products and “will
vigorously defend them.”