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Today a jury in Oakland, California awarded more than $2 billion to a couple who charged that Bayer AG's glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer caused their cancer. How will Bayer continue to sustain such punishment without filing bankruptcy?
According to a report on Bloomberg.com, this marks the largest jury award in the U.S. this year, and the eigth-largest ever in a product-defect claim. This also marks the third such ruling, after two other recent California trials over the herbicide causing cancer yielded combined damages against Bayer AG of $159 million.
The jury agreed that Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s use of the glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide was a “substantial factor” in causing them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While both Pilliods have diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, Alva’s invaded his pelvis and spine and Alberta’s developed in her brain.
The Pilliod's used the herbicide for residential landscaping, over a 30 year period, and believed, as the manufacturer long touted, that it was exceedingly safe. Their lawyer sought $55 million for the couple's medical bills and pain and suffering, and requested an additional $1 billion to punish the company.
This ruling has potentially devastating consequences for Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto Co. last june for $66 billion dollars. Since then, Bayer's market cap has plummeted 40%, and likely will continue to spiral further downward after news of this third ruling spreads. In fact, Monsanto is named in about 13,400 additional lawsuits by plaintiffs in the US. alone.
Bayer is anticipated to appeal this decision, due in part to the fact that courts usually punitive damages no more than 10 times higher than compensatory damages. That said, with three successful verdicts against Bayer now established, indication is that jurors are convinced by the evidence presented against the company. Also, in June of last year Ian Hilliker, an analyst at Jefferies LLC in London, estimated in a note to clients that based on a class action lawsuit involving [at the time] 8,700 plaintiffs believed to have cancer as a result of glyphosate exposure, Monsanto’s liability could reach $800 billion dollars. Obviously, with 13,400 plaintiffs on the list now, that figure could easily reach to well over a trillion dollars of liability. Could a Bayer bankrupcy be on the horizon?
To learn about previous rulings against Bayer/Monsanto, read the following articles:
To view the peer-reviewed research on the known toxicity of Roundup herbicide, use our Database on the topic: Roundup (herbicide).
To learn more about the history of the Bayer/Monsanto merger, watch the video below: