On September 1 of this year, it was reported that Bayer AG, parent company of Monsanto, asked the California Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision that awarded a former groundskeeper, Dwayne “Lee” Johnson, $289 million. Today, it was announced that the Court refused to review the decision, which was the first Roundup case to go to trial.
The denial deals another setback to Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for over $60 billion, roughly at the same time the Johnson trial was underway. Johnson, and over 125,000 other plaintiffs that have filed suit against Monsanto, allege that the herbicide contains chemicals that caused them to develop a rare type of cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Moreover, the lawsuits claim Monsanto withheld from the public the risks of glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup and other weed-killing products. Presently, the FDA does not consider glyphosate a probable human carcinogen.
However, juries in the first three Roundup trials have determined the opposite; plaintiffs in all three cases, including Johnson, were awarded large sums in damages. Those awards were all later ordered reduced. Johnson’s award was slashed to $20.4 million. In August of this year, Bayer AG asked an appeals court to further reduce his award to $16 million.
In addition to appealing Johnson’s decision, Bayer has appealed the two other cases that have gone to trial. Also, in an attempt to make its mounting litigation headaches it inherited after acquiring Monsanto go away, Bayer committed an historic $10 billion in June of this year.
After settlements were on the verge of collapse, thousands of settlement deals were finally reached with leading law firms involved in Roundup litigation. At latest count, Bayer has settled approximately 45,000 of the 125,000 Roundup cases.
But the company may still be on the hook for future Roundup cases if it does not come up with an alternative plan to resolve any forthcoming claims.
In addition to the $10 billion or so Bayer will pay to resolve Roundup lawsuits, the German-based pharmaceutical giant will pay $400 million to settle litigation centered around another herbicide, dicamba.
There’s also more bad news for Bayer on the legal front. The company may have to set aside an additional $800 million to settle PCB lawsuits. PCBs are a toxic collection of over 200 chemicals that have been linked to cancer. Like Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, PCBs were developed by the Monsanto Corporation.
Attorneys for Johnson, the former groundskeeper who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result, he claims, of using Roundup for many years and once accidentally spilling the herbicide on his body, requested that the Supreme Court of California review Johnson’s award and reinstate it to the higher amount previously awarded.
An appeals court reduced Johnson’s award because he is not expected to live much longer because of his terminal cancer. The Supreme Court of California denied Johnson’s request to review the damage award.