Not a great day for Bayer and its Monsanto unit.
The first piece of bad news was that Bayer just lost the third trial in a row over claims its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer.
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.
In the stunning verdict, sure to be appealed, a jury in state court in Oakland, California, issued its verdict Monday, awarding a total of more than $2 billion in punitive damages to a husband and wife over there cancer claims.
The jury hit Monsanto with another $1 BILLION in punitive damages for Alva Pilliod. The total is a $2.055 billion verdict.— Dorothy M. Atkins (@doratki) May 13, 2019
As Bloomberg reports, the jurors agreed that Alva and Alberta Pilliod's use of Roundup over about 30 years for residential landscaping was a “substantial factor” in causing them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“In this case there appeared to be more detailed evidence damaging to Monsanto, which strengthens plaintiffs’ cases down the pipeline even further,” said Anna Pavlik, senior counsel for special situations at United First Partners LLC in New York, who has followed the trials.
Monsanto Co., the maker of Roundup acquired by Bayer last June, is the named defendant in similar U.S. lawsuits filed by at least 13,400 plaintiffs. Bayer is appealing the earlier verdicts and the award of $2 billion will be vulnerable to a legal challenge
by Bayer because courts have generally held that punitive damages shouldn’t be more than 10 times higher than compensatory damages.
Bayer has just confirmed it will appeal the verdict.
The second piece of bad news was a Reuters story reporting that Bayer said on Monday its Monsanto unit, which is being investigated by French prosecutors for compiling files of influential people such as journalists in France, likely did the same across Europe, suggesting a potentially wider problem.
French prosecutors said on Friday they had opened an inquiry after newspaper Le Monde filed a complaint alleging that Monsanto - acquired by Bayer for $63 billion last year - had kept a file of 200 names, including journalists and lawmakers in hopes of influencing positions on pesticides.
Bayer acknowledged the existence of the files, saying it does not believe any laws were broken but that it will ask an external law firm to investigate.
“It’s safe to say that other countries in Europe were affected by lists ... I assume that all EU member states could potentially be affected,” Matthias Berninger, Bayer’s head of public affairs and sustainability, told journalists on Monday.
“When you collect non-publicly available data about individuals a Rubicon is clearly crossed,” regardless of whether data privacy laws were actually violated, he added.
Bayer said in its initial statement that “Currently, we have no indication that the preparation of the lists under discussion violated any legal provisions.”