Couple who claimed Roundup weedkiller caused their cancer awarded $2bn

More than 11,200 lawsuits in the US are linking Roundup to cancer

This is the third recent court decision involving claims that the company's Roundup weed killer caused cancer. Alba Pilliod remembers the heartbreak getting the news.

Jurors awarded $55 million in compensatory damages, making it likely that the punitive damages award will be reduced under Supreme Court precedent that limits the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages.

"Over the years, we were using it probably every week", said Alberta Pilliod. The cases have uncovered internal Monsanto documents that plaintiffs' lawyers say reveal the ways in which the company has "bullied" scientists over the years and helped "ghostwrite" research defending the safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup.

"If we had been given accurate information, if we had been warned, this wouldn't have happened". It was caused by Roundup.

"They were given an incredibly hard task having to analyze the highly-complex scientific issues in this case", said co-lead trial counsel R. Brent Wisner, of Baum Hedlund Law, in a statement after the verdict.

"They should let consumers make the choice about whether or not they want to use the product. That needs to be on the Roundup label", said Wisner.

Under a push to divest assets including its animal health division, Bayer late on Monday said it had agreed to sell USA sun care brand Coppertone to Nivea owner Beiersdorf, for $550 million.

Glyphosate, the basic component in Roundup, was found to be the cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in both Alva and Alberta Pilliod.

In a statement, Bayer said it was "disappointed with the verdict and will appeal". But it said its findings on the human health risks of the compound "are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by many other countries and other federal agencies". Bayer's statement on Monday said the plaintiffs "relied heavily" on the agency's 2015 assessment but called it "an outlier among worldwide health regulators and scientific bodies".

In March, a jury awarded the plaintiff $80 million and in October a judge upheld a decision awarding $78.6 million for allegations the product caused cancer.

While it was a "risky move" to ask for an award of more than US$1 billion - and the damages will probably be reduced by the judge - the three verdicts against Bayer show jurors are convinced by evidence against the company, said Anna Pavlik, senior counsel for special situations at United First Partners LLC in NY.

The latest verdict may be the most expensive nightmare to hit Bayer this month, but it's not the only one.

"There is zero chance it will stand", said University of California, Hastings School of Law professor David Levine.

"However, the level of compensatory damages is still likely to be somewhat of a concern to the market given the level is above the Hardeman case", they added, referring to $5 million in compensatory damages awarded to a plaintiff in a previous case.

The verdict 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. The court didn't propose a ratio it felt correct, but said punitive damages should nearly never exceed nine times actual damages, it said.

Bayer has seen its stock price plummet 40 percent since it purchased Monsanto a year ago for $63 billion.

Bayer's management was already in hot water over the wisdom of the Monsanto takeover, with shareholders having effectively told CEO Werner Baumann in a no-confidence vote last month that his job is in jeopardy.

Monsanto Co's Roundup is shown for sale in Encinitas, California, U.S., June 26, 2017.

Bayer's stock price closed Monday at $15.91 a share, down 45 cents or 2.76 percent per share, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.



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