A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a $ 25 million verdict and a verdict finding that Bayer's Roundup caused a California resident's non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which dealt a blow to the chemical company's hopes to reduce the legal risk for limit the weed killer.
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 blocked allegations that the company had failed to warn of the cancer risks of Roundup.
“It's a slam dunk for plaintiffs,” said Leslie Brueckner, a public justice attorney who helped Hardeman's appeal. "This proves that these claims are viable in the tort system."
Bayer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A jury awarded Hardeman $ 5 million in damages and $ 75 million in punitive damages in 2019 in the first federal case to go to trial. The punitive price was later reduced to $ 20 million and the appeal court upheld the cut.
Friday's ruling was the first of a federal appeals court in a case linking Roundup and cancer, and Bayer had said the case had the potential to shape how each subsequent Roundup- case is being handled & # 39 ;.
Bayer has said decades of studies have shown that Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides that dominate the market are safe for human use.
The company has argued that glyphosate has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as safe for humans and that regulatory agencies have prevented Bayer from adding a warning to the product's label.
But the company has been trying to contain the dispute for years.
Bayer has pledged $ 9.6 billion to settle 125,000 claims about Roundup.
It also aims to resolve potential legal claims from millions of consumers and farm workers who have been exposed to Roundup and may become ill in the future.
On Wednesday, it will seek preliminary approval for a controversial $ 2 billion proposed deal to resolve those future claims through a class action that would group those exposed to Roundup but who did not get sick.
Personal injury attorneys and consumer groups have opposed the plan, which they say limits the rights of Roundup users to sue.
Brueckner said Friday's ruling undermined one argument for the class action settlement, namely that Bayer could gain the upper hand 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 was accidental."
Elizabeth Cabraser, the class action attorney who negotiated the class action agreement, said she was happy with Friday's ruling.
Proponents of the class action agreement argued that it provides consumers with free medical exams to monitor their health. If consumers were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, they could receive compensation of up to $ 200,000 and free legal advice to assess their options.
The deal also pauses the lawsuit against Bayer for four years, and if someone declines the compensation and files a lawsuit, they won't be able to claim damages.
"The more sentences that are passed against Bayer, the more pressure is placed on the company to either pull Roundup off the market or reach a more generous settlement," said David Noll, a professor at Rutgers Law School.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; additional reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; edited by Dan Grebler and Diane Craft)