Bloombergquint.com reported Saturday that Bayer AG, owner of Monsanto Corp.’s Roundup weed killer, will not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the first of three Roundup claims that have gone to trial, all three of which have resulted in multi-million-dollar verdicts for the plaintiffs.
Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a former groundskeeper from the Bay Area, in 2018, became the first plaintiff to successfully sue Monsanto, alleging that he developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) as a result of accidentally spilling the glyphosate-based herbicide on his body while on the job landscaping at school. Originally awarded $289 million, Johnson’s award was reduced twice, most recently to $20.5 million. Johnson is still living but has advanced NHL.
After “careful and extensive consideration,” Bayer’s decision reflects a legal strategy to end the state court case and instead focus on the second Roundup verdict, in federal court, Bloomberquint.com said.
Johnson sued Monsanto in state court. The second plaintiff to successfully sue Monsanto was Edwin Hardeman, who was awarded $80 million by a jury in a federal court. (Hardeman’s case served as a bellwether trial for more than 1,600 plaintiffs, all of which were consolidated in San Francisco’s federal court.)
Despite not asking the nation’s high court to take up the Johnson verdict, Bayer maintains that its decision has nothing to do with “the merits of this case,” a Bayer spokesperson wrote in an e-mailed statement to Bloombergquint.com.
Bayer also said in the email statement that the federal case involving Hardeman—whose reward was later reduced to $25 million—is being reviewed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and “will serve as a better case for review by the Supreme Court.” Bayer added in the email statement to Bloombergquint.com that it “has great sympathy for Mr. Johnson and all people battling cancer yet continues to believe the Johnson verdict is not supported by the evidence or the law.”
Earlier this year, the company, which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for roughly $63 billion, announced it would create a $2 billion settlement fund for future Roundup cases. The federal judge who ruled in the Hardeman case, Vincent Chhabria, needs to approve Bayer’s plan to resolve future cases. However, many law firms representing Roundup plaintiffs, oppose Bayer’s settlement plan.
Johnson and Hardeman’s victory as well as the third plaintiff victory (at the state court level), opened the door for people who claimed they were harmed by Roundup, to sue Monsanto.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains that Roundup is safe when used as directed. However, the agency has recently been accused of ignoring dozens of research studies that associate the controversial herbicide with health concerns. The agency did acknowledge late last year in a report, that glyphosate poses a threat to several endangered plant and animal species.