Bayer at ‘end of rope’ in Roundup cases, says St. Louis | local business

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an offer by biotech giant Bayer to settle thousands of lawsuits alleging that its Roundup herbicide causes cancer, likely costing the company billions of dollars in settlements.

The decision is another major defeat for Bayer. Together, the setbacks are expected to eliminate a legal standstill in unresolved cases, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Bayer now basically has two options, they say: go to trial to fight more cases or reach additional out-of-court settlements.

“It all kind of fell apart at Bayer,” said Jim Onder, a lawyer at Onder Law Firm, based in St. Louis. “They’re kind of at the end of the rope.”

Onder represents just under 20,000 plaintiffs in Roundup cases — about half the number of unsolved cases nationwide, he said.

Bayer said it “respectfully disagrees” with the court’s decision and that the company is “fully prepared to manage the litigation risk associated with potential future US claims.”

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The company has now resolved about 107,000 cases out of a total of 138,000 cases, the company said in its March annual report.

Roundup lawsuits have dogged Bayer since it acquired the brand as part of its $63 billion purchase of Creve Coeur-based agricultural seed and pesticide maker Monsanto in 2018.

Some of the cases went to trial, including four that Bayer won. But it also lost three, in which Roundup users received tens of millions of dollars each.

On Friday, a federal appeals court ordered the US Environmental Protection Agency to review whether Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, poses unreasonable risks to humans and the environment. The San Francisco-based US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with several environmental, farm worker and food safety advocacy groups that the EPA had not adequately considered whether glyphosate causes cancer and threatens endangered species.

Bayer has pinned hopes for relief on the conservative-majority Supreme Court, which has a reputation for being pro-business. The company asked the court to review a California verdict: Edwin Hardeman, a Sonoma County resident, used Roundup regularly for 26 years in his Northern California wine country home before he was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. .

A jury in 2019 awarded Hardeman $5 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages in the first federal case to trial. The punitive award was later reduced to $20 million. In May of last year, the 9th Circuit upheld the decision.

In May of this year, the administration of President Joe Biden urged the Supreme Court not to hear Bayer’s appeal, reversing the administration’s position previously taken by former President Donald Trump.

Bayer, which also makes aspirin, birth control pills Yasmin and the stroke-prevention drug Xarelto, among other products, has argued that the cancer claims about Roundup and glyphosate go against solid science and EPA product clearance. The agency has maintained guidance that glyphosate is not carcinogenic and poses no public health risk when used as directed on the label.

Bayer said it should not be penalized for marketing a product deemed safe by the EPA and on which the agency would not allow a cancer warning to be printed.

The lawsuits against Bayer said the company should have warned customers about the alleged cancer risk.

Bayer struck a settlement in principle with the plaintiffs in June 2020, but failed to get court approval for a separate agreement on how to handle future cases.

In July 2021, Bayer accepted an additional provision of $4.5 billion in the event of an unfavorable decision by the Supreme Court or if the judges refused to consider its appeal. That left a “significant advantage” if the Supreme Court rules in his favor, Bayer said.

The provision came in addition to the $11.6 billion it had previously set aside for settlements and litigation over the matter.

Bayer plans to replace glyphosate in herbicides for the US residential market for non-professional gardeners with other active ingredients.

Bayer shares tumbled 2.9% on the Supreme Court news, wiping out gains in the previous two trading sessions.

Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger.

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“Everything kind of fell apart at Bayer. They’re kind of at the end of the rope.

Jim Onder, attorney at the Onder law firm, based in St. Louis

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