Bayer Hit with $2 Billion Verdict

A jury Monday awarded $2.055 billion to a California couple who blamed Bayer’s Roundup weedkiller for causing their cancer, the largest such verdict to date and one that adds significant pressure to a company struggling to contain the fallout from last year’s acquisition of Monsanto Co.

The verdict by the Northern California jury is the third straight trial loss for Bayer over the safety of Roundup. Bayer is facing a revolt from shareholders over the Monsanto deal, which exposed Bayer to some 13,400 claims tying Roundup to cancer.

Two previous trial losses have helped wipe more than 30% off Bayer’s share price. Last month, a majority of Bayer shareholders refused to endorse management’s actions in the past year, indicating that investors lack confidence in how the company is being run.

The jury in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Monday said the company was liable for plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a spokeswoman for the couple said. It awarded $18 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod, and $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to his wife, Alberta Pilliod. The jury found Roundup had been defectively designed, that the company failed to warn of the herbicide’s cancer risk and that the company acted negligently.

The German chemicals giant faces more than 13,400 U.S. lawsuits over the herbicide’s alleged cancer risk. The next jury trial in the glyphosate litigation is scheduled for August in Missouri state court, the first time a jury outside of California will hear a Roundup case. The trial will take place in St. Louis County, where Monsanto’s former headquarters are located.

Bayer in a statement on Monday said it was disappointed with the verdict and will appeal. A spokesman called the jury’s decision “excessive and unjustifiable.”
The company said both Alva and Alberta Pilliod had long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Todd “Bubba” Horwitz