How Will Bayer Address Over 11,000 Lawsuits Linked To Roundup Cancer Risk?
By Mark A. York (February 28, 2019)
(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The troubles keep mounting for German pharmaceutical giant Bayer since it acquired Monsanto last June for $62.5 billion, as they now face thousands of lawsuits in state and federal courts.
In a just started bellwether trial in the Monsanto Roundup MDL 2741 federal litigation, plaintiff Edwin Hardeman, 70, the second plaintiff to go to trial against Monsanto, is claiming agribusiness giant Monsanto’s weed killer causes cancer. He claims his decades-long use of the weedkiller on his 56-acre Sonoma County property is linked to his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015
Last August, a California state court jury concluded that Roundup presented a “substantial danger” to terminally ill 46-year-old Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, and awarded him $289 million in damages. Lee Johnson became sick with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using the spray for more than two years as a groundskeeper.
Hardeman’s trial is before a different judge and may be more significant. U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing thousands of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed Hardeman’s case and two others “bellwether trials” in ROUNDUP-MONSANTO-(GLYPHOSATE)-MDL-2741-(USDC-ND-California). Six others trials are scheduled to begin this year as well.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been under scrutiny for years including when in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, identified the ingredient as a “probable carcinogen.” Monsanto has adamantly denied those claims.
The lawsuits pose a threat to Monsanto and its corporate parent, German chemical giant Bayer, which last year merged in the $60 billion deal with Monsanto. While Monsanto doesn’t break out sales of glyphosate, the product delivered $4.8 billion in revenue in 2015. In its last earnings report before Bayer acquisition, Monsanto said profits in its agricultural productivity division soared 30 percent due to “improved pricing” on glyphosate.
The Lee Johnson verdict award was seen as a positive step in the ever-growing litigation against Monsanto-Bayer, however that $289 million verdict was in California state court, and not the more restrictive US District Court in San Francisco where Judge Chhabria has bifurcated the trial, as well as prohibited admission of documents and research data that reflects badly on Monsanto.
The jury awarded Mr. Johnson, a school groundskeeper more than $289 million in damages after he claimed Monsanto’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup gave him cancer, and now the controversial ingredient – glyphosate — has been detected in popular kids’ breakfast cereals, including Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, according to an activist group.
Edwin Hardeman, 70, is the second plaintiff to go to trial claiming agribusiness giant Monsanto’s weed killer causes cancer. He claims decades-long use of the weedkiller on his 56-acre Sonoma County property is linked to his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015. Hardeman’s trial is before a different judge and may be more significant for the overall litigation, due to this being a bellwether trial, the results may set the stage for how the other cases are addressed in dockets across the country.
The outcome of bellwether cases help attorneys on both sides decide whether to continue fighting in court including at ongoing bellwether trials or look toward settlement. A jury verdict in favor of Hardeman and the other test plaintiffs would give their attorneys a strong bargaining position in any settlement talks for the remaining cases before Chhabria.
Lab tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy group that specializes in toxic chemicals and corporate accountability, indicated almost three-fourths of the 45 food products tested detected high levels of glyphosate, which has been identified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization in 2015.
Popular children items, including General Mills’ Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal, Lucky Charm’s, Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran and Quaker’s Old Fashioned Oats, all had levels exceeding EWG’s safety guidelines.
But makers of the foods EWG tested said they and their suppliers operate within U.S. government safety guidelines and dismissed the group’s findings as irrelevant.
Since the state court verdict won by Lee Johnson showed that juries can hold Monsanto liable, the Roundup litigation has made national headlines, and Bayer has been flooded with thousands of other lawsuits.
A Bayer spokesperson has stated that it would like “to emphasize once again that we disagree with the verdict in the Johnson case. We have therefore filed an appeal, and we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously in all the other proceedings as well.”
Bayer added that glyphosate, which is the controversial active ingredient in Roundup, “is a safe product” and “that has been proven by numerous scientific studies and the independent assessments of regulatory authorities throughout the world over a period of more than 40 years.”
However, glyphosate has been under scrutiny for years, including in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, identified the ingredient as a “probable carcinogen.”
Bayer stock has fallen more than 27 percent since the first courtroom defeat in August, and the boardroom must be concerend about additional plaintiff verdicts in the future and how this will affect their stock proces. How Bayer begins to view the Monsanto merger and the tag-along liabilities of thousands of Roundup lawsuits may force Bayer to begin settlement discussions in earnest. The German parent entity Bayer AG, has started aggressively divesting assets including their animal products division, cutting consumer marketing group costs, closing several US manufacturing locations to the tune of more than $3 billion. Where Bayer decides to put the recently acquired cash remains to be seen, since they are also facing more than 20,000 lawsuits in the Xarelto MDL 2592 litigation.
The Xarelto lawsuits are pending in federal and state courts across the country where the blockbuster blood-thinner drug Xarelto is alleged to have injured and/or killed thousands while Bayer withheld and manipulated drug dangers and clinical study results.
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