Bayer is Objecting to Roundup Verdict and Preferential Treatment
Bayer AG is trying to undo the $289 million verdict over Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer awarded to Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundkeeper, in August. It is objecting to the verdict and blames misinformation fed to a jury for the outcome. Bayer is also fighting to prevent a “rush to trial after trial” that it claims will disrupt the orderly flow of litigation.
“Getting the first ruling overturned would be huge for Bayer – likely reversing most of the discount,” said Jonas Oxgaard, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
At a hearing scheduled this month, Bayer will argue before a state court judge that the scientific studies that helped attorneys for Johnson win his award didn’t actually prove Roundup caused his cancer. Bayer issued a statement, saying, “The jury’s decision is wholly at odds with over 40 years of real-world use” of glyphosate herbicides.
The award was the second-largest of the year for a product defect case in the U.S. and the ninth-largest verdict overall. The punitive part of the award is so “excessive” that it “shocks the conscience,” the company argued in a court filing.
“The jury’s hard work should be celebrated, not swept aside,” Johnson’s attorneys fired back.
Jurors awarded Johnson $39 million to compensate for his early-40s cancer diagnosis and the resulting loss of work and enjoyment of life. His wife, Areceli, works two full-time jobs to compensate for the couple’s loss of income.
Johnson argued at trial that Monsanto was aware of the dangers of using Roundup. He testified he was getting scared about his exposure and called the company twice over his concerns. Yet, he never received a callback. He said he wanted to ask, “Is it possible that maybe if someone got this on their skin, would they get sick? Would they get rashes? Would they get lymphoma?” An email presented during trial clearly shows a Monsanto executive was notified of Johnson’s call.
“The verdict really meant to me – that this thing was not done in vain,” Johnson said. “I remember standing there saying to myself, if I lose this case, this company is gonna get away and…they’ll be able to say, ‘See? Told you our stuff didn’t do that.’”
Now, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a couple in their mid-70s, claim they’re entitled to an expedited trial “before they die,” and Bayer is objecting, asking the court to block their request because it would undermine the process.
“Fortunately, the Pilliods are both in remission, and there is no indication of any imminent cancer recurrence that would justify granting them a trial scheduling preference,” Bayer said.
Steven Kazan, a plaintiffs’ lawyer who has litigated asbestos cases, said other states allow old or sick plaintiffs to request expedited trials. However, California is the only state in which damages for pain and suffering are irretrievable when a plaintiff dies. That difference should motivate the state’s judges to grant the requests.
“Monsanto would like for these cases to sit somewhere for years,” Kazan said of the company objecting. “Delay is their friend. It is not a friend for those who are aging, especially if they are sick.”