Roundup weed killer on the shelves in Los Angeles, California on September 1, 2019 (AFP/Mark RALSTON)
The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to grant a request from the German group Bayer, owner of Monsanto, in a case related to its weedkiller Roundup, opening the door to compensation of several billion dollars.
By not taking up the case, the high court made final a previous court decision condemning the group to pay 25 million dollars to a pensioner, Edwin Hardeman, who attributes his cancer to the glyphosate-based weedkiller.
As usual, the Supreme Court did not justify its decision.
But the latter risks having serious consequences for the group, which is already facing more than 31,000 complaints in addition to those for which it has already concluded an agreement, a figure which could climb.
The German company had already set aside 6.5 billion dollars to deal with these new procedures (2 billion initially then an additional 4.5 billion after the rejection of a previous agreement). It could be required to pay more depending on the handling of complaints.
The Supreme Court decision “opens a clear path” for cancer victims in court, says attorney Matt Stubbs.
His firm represents thousands of Roundup-related plaintiffs and “a flurry of cases” are set to go to trial “in the coming months,” he says.
Bayer shares fell 2.05% on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
A French farmer uses Roundup weed killer in his fields in Saint Germain-sur-Sarthe on September 16, 2019 (AFP/JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER)
“Bayer respectfully disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision” but “is fully prepared to face the legal risk associated with potential future complaints in the United States,” the group responded in a statement.
The company says “admit no wrong or liability” and “continue to support its Roundup products, a valuable tool for efficient agricultural production around the world.”
– Ready to fight ‘unreasonable’ complaints –
Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015, was one of the first to take Monsanto to court, blaming his cancer on the herbicide he had used on his large property for 25 years.
He accused the Monsanto Group of misleading users by claiming the glyphosate product was harmless and failing to display warnings on its labels.
Bayer was ordered in 2019 to pay him $ 25 million in damages, a decision upheld on appeal in 2021.
Edwin Hardeman (left) in San Francisco, California on March 27, 2019 (AFP/Josh Edelson)
The company then turned to the Supreme Court of the United States, highlighting the fact that the federal environmental protection agency (EPA) considers that glyphosate does not present a danger to health and therefore deserves no special warning against cancer.
A California-based appeals court last week ordered the EPA to reconsider that finding.
Glyphosate, the main active substance in Roundup, is classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO).
But Monsanto has always insisted that no study has concluded that glyphosate and Roundup, which were marketed in the 1970s, are dangerous.
The German group Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for 63 billion dollars, has since found itself entangled in multiple proceedings related to weedkiller in the United States.
The Bayer Group logo on one of its buildings in Berlin, Germany, on March 20, 2019 ( AFP / Odd ANDERSEN )
In June 2020, he signed a $ 10 billion agreement to settle the lawsuits. The parties had agreed to add $2 billion to it to settle future claims, but that part of the deal was thrown out by a California judge.
In an attempt to permanently end all proceedings, the group had presented a five-point plan in the summer of 2021 providing that in the event of a defeat in the Supreme Court on the Hardeman case, it would initiate discussions on the complaints not included. in the 2020 agreement.
On Tuesday, Bayer said it was “fully prepared to defend cases in court where plaintiffs’ expectations are unreasonable and outside the scope of this program.”
After a few defeats in American courts, the German company recently registered four judgments in its favor and recalls that the Supreme Court must rule on another case on which it has appealed: a decision granting 87 million dollars to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, both with lymphoma after years of using Roundup.