To date, there have been over 125,000 lawsuits related to the infamous weed killer, Roundup, which was developed by the Monsanto Corporation. After Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical and life sciences giant, acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, the company was on the hook for future cases involving Roundup, which contains the highly controversial herbicide and pesticide, glyphosate.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (an arm of the World Health Organization) declared glyphosate a possible human carcinogen.
Three years later, a groundskeeper from the Bay Area, Dwayne “Lee Johnson,” successfully became the first plaintiff to sue the Monsanto Corporation. Johnson was initially awarded $289 million. The trial judge reduced Johnson’s award to $78 million.
Monsanto appealed the decision. Last month, an appeals court upheld Johnson’s trial win. However, Johnson’s award was again reduced, this time by over $50 million.
One would think that with Monsanto’s negative association in the court of public opinion, attorneys for Bayer would let Johnson walk away with his $20 in damages. However, Bayer is now asking an appeals court to trim another $4 million from Johnson’s award, arguing the reduction should be recalculated based on the amount of time Johnson is expected to live.
Public opinion doesn’t necessarily affect a company’s stock price. However, considering that Bayer’s value dropped by 44% at one point last year, if the court upholds Johnson’s award, the company could see another drop. Plus, investors may be swayed at least partially by public opinion, and at a time when Bayer is settling the bulk of 125,000 Roundup cases, the optics look bad to be nickel and diming such a high-profile lawsuit. If Bayer AG doesn’t want to be synonymous with the big bad corporate monster that is Monsanto, it should cease to seek a further reduction in damages, much less ask the court to vacate the damages.