A federal appeals court upheld a $ 25 million judgment and trial verdict on Friday finding Bayer’s Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma in a California resident, dealing a blow to the hopes of the chemical company of limit its legal risk on the weedkiller.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected Bayer’s argument that lawsuits like Edwin Hardeman’s should never go to trial because federal pesticide laws prohibited claims that the company no. would not have warned of Roundup’s cancer risks.
“It’s a slam dunk for plaintiffs,” said Leslie Brueckner, a public justice attorney who assisted on Hardeman’s appeal. “It proves that these claims are viable in the tort system.”
Bayer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A 2019 jury awarded Hardeman $ 5 million in compensatory damages and $ 75 million in punitive damages in the first federal case to go to trial. The punitive compensation was then reduced to $ 20 million and the appeals court also upheld the reduction.
Friday’s decision was the first by a federal appeals court in a Roundup-cancer case and Bayer had said the case had the potential to “shape the way every subsequent Roundup case is litigation.”
Bayer said decades of studies have shown Roundup and other market-leading glyphosate herbicides to be safe for humans.
The company argued that glyphosate has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as safe for humans and that regulators have blocked Bayer from adding a warning to the product label.
But the company has spent years trying to contain the litigation.
Bayer has committed $ 9.6 billion to settle 125,000 Roundup claims.
He also wants to resolve the potential legal claims of millions of consumers and farm workers who have been exposed to Roundup and may become ill in the future.
On Wednesday, he will seek preliminary approval of a controversial proposed $ 2 billion deal to resolve such future claims through a class action lawsuit that would bring together people exposed to Roundup but who have not fallen ill.
Personal injury lawyers and consumer groups have opposed the plan, which they say limits the rights of Roundup users to sue.
Brueckner said Friday’s ruling undermined an argument for settling the class action lawsuit that Bayer could prevail in federal appeals courts.
“The timing couldn’t be more perfect,” Brueckner said, referring to Wednesday’s hearing on the class action agreement. “I doubt it’s accidental.”
Elizabeth Cabraser, the class action lawyer who negotiated the class action agreement, said she was happy with Friday’s ruling.
Supporters of the class action deal argued that it offers consumers free medical examinations to monitor their health. If consumers were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, they could receive compensation up to $ 200,000 and free legal advice to assess their options.
The deal also suspends litigation against Bayer for four years and if someone rejected compensation and sued, they couldn’t seek punitive damages.
“The more verdicts against Bayer, the more pressure is put on the company to take Roundup off the market or accept a more generous settlement,” said David Noll, professor at Rutgers Law School.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; additional reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Dan Grebler and Diane Craft)