Washington/Leverkusen (DPA) – The Bayer Group has failed a groundbreaking legal dispute over the cancer risks of the weed killer glyphosate with an appeal to the US Supreme Court.
In Washington, the US Supreme Court announced that it will not deal with the case, which will determine the course of many other US actions. For Bayer, this is dying — at least at first — the hope of liberation in the ongoing struggle over old legal issues the agrochemical and pharmaceutical company brought in with its $60 billion purchase of US seed giant Monsanto in 2018.
Specifically, the application to the Supreme Court was about reviewing a ruling in favor of plaintiff Edwin Hardman, who blamed Monsanto products containing glyphosate for his cancer. In 2019, after a lawsuit, he finally received a good $25 million in damages. Bayer strongly denies that glyphosate causes cancer. The company argues with regulatory approval and studies designed to show that weed killers such as the controversial Monsanto newsreel are safe when used as directed.
Billions of legal risks
Baer had high hopes for the Supreme Court’s overturning of the ruling. That could have had a signaling effect on several other glyphosate-related lawsuits in the US, on which the Dax Group relies on billions in legal risk. But the US Supreme Court’s decision not to accept Hardman’s case was not surprising. The administration of President Joe Biden had already advised the Supreme Court against it. This was a notable shift – under Donald Trump, Washington had initially supported Bayer.
“We cannot understand the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the Hardman case,” Bayer said. However, the group indicated in its statement that it intends to continue to seek a clarifying ruling on glyphosate at the highest level of the US court. Although this decision ends Hardman’s case, there are other cases — including a news report — that the Supreme Court can handle. “We have been encouraged by the extensive support from government officials, farmer groups and other stakeholders following the legal change of the US government.”
Additional appropriations of $4.5 billion
Leverkusen had already set the path of defeat in the Supreme Court. Bayer put an additional $4.5 billion in allotment last summer on the issue. The company wants to use this money to set up a program to handle the claims of potential new plaintiffs in the United States over the next 15 years. Bayer previously committed about $11 billion to settle Monsanto’s inherited legal issues with a major US settlement. Even if the Supreme Court’s decision was expected, Bayer shares initially responded with significant price losses.
The numerous lawsuits that Bayer faces in the United States in particular are based on an assessment by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. In 2015, the herbicide from Monsanto was classified as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. On the other hand, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has so far agreed with Bayer and considers glyphosate to be safe if used properly. The company also argued to the Supreme Court that its weed killer has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as safe and that US federal law should not conflict with state court decisions.
But recently, the Environment Agency itself has come under legal pressure with its assessment of glyphosate. On Friday, an appeals court ordered the EPA to re-examine the health risks. In their ruling, the judges were particularly alarmed by the way the EPA had justified that glyphosate was not a carcinogen. Fundamental analysis is “incorrect” and is not in line with the Commission’s guidelines. The Environmental Protection Agency declined to comment on the criticism when asked. A spokeswoman said the glyphosate decision would be reviewed.
However, the tide has recently turned in Bayer’s favor in lawsuits involving several individual US plaintiffs who blame Roundup for their precancerous diseases. After the group lost the first three actions, there was already a fourth success in a row on Friday. A jury in Jackson County, Oregon, unanimously acquitted Bayer of the cancer charges. “We remain fully behind the security of Roundup,” the company said. Bayer has announced that it will defend “with self-confidence” in future legal disputes on the matter.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220621-99-745042 / 5