Bayer AG has asked a judge in California to dismiss the $2 billion verdict awarded last month to an elderly couple who alleged Monsanto Roundup caused their cancer.
According to documents filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday, Bayer maintains that the Roundup verdict was not supported by the evidence, but rather resulted from the “inflammatory, fabricated and irrelevant evidence” supposedly presented by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
“The resulting trial focused not on ascertaining the truth regarding the state of the science, causation, and compliance with legal duties, but instead on vilifying Monsanto in the abstract,” the company argued.
Bayer acquired Monsanto last summer for $63 billion. As a result, the company is now defending more than 13,000 lawsuits in courts around the United States that blame exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers.
Alva and Alberta Pilliod regularly used Monsanto Roundup while landscaping their properties for over 30 years. Alva was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, while Alberta received the same diagnosis in 2015. Last month, the jury hearing their case found that glyphosate was a “substantial factor” in their cancer and awarded the couple $55 million in compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages.
The Roundup verdict was the largest so far stemming from the massive litigation. The first Monsanto Roundup trial concluded last August in San Francisco Superior Court, where the jury awarded $289 million (later reduced to $78 million) to a former school district groundskeeper suffering from terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In March, a jury in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, ordered Bayer to pay $80 million to another home gardener with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
So far, the defense has yet to win a single Roundup trial.
Bayer is asking Judge Winifred Smith, who presided over the Pilliod’s Monsanto Roundup lawsuit, to reverse the jury’s decision, and either enter a judgment in its favor or order a new trial. According to Reuters, Bayer is also seeking a substantial reduction in punitive damages, arguing they were excessive and unconstitutional.
There is a good chance that Bayer will win on the punitive damages question, as rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court limit such awards to a 9:1 ratio with compensatory damages. However, its post-trial motions arguing for dismissal of the entire Roundup verdicts echo others that failed to convince trial judges to reverse the previous jury decisions.
Bayer has since appealed the first two Monsanto Roundup verdicts to higher courts. It’s almost certain to do the same if Judge Smith allows the Pilloid’s verdict to stand.
Monsanto developed glyphosate in the early 1970s, and it has since become the most popular weed killer in the world.
But in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen based on an independent review that linked occupational exposure to cancer, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
While Monsanto vehemently disputed the agency’s findings, internal company documents and other evidence presented during all three trials seemed to suggest the Missouri-based agribusiness manipulated positive studies and regulatory reviews that later declared glyphosate non-carcinogenic.
The massive Roundup verdicts have raised significant doubts about Bayer’s Monsanto acquisition, and its share price has dropped significantly over the past year. In fact, Bayer’s market valuation is currently lower than the price paid for Monsanto.
Nevertheless, the company has vowed to continue defending Monsanto Roundup lawsuits. That promise, however, did not prevent Bayer from agreeing to comply with a court-ordered mediation effort aimed at resolving the entire litigation. Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent attorney behind the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and other high-profile legal settlements, will lead the discussions.