The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request by German group Bayer, owner of Monsanto, in a case related to its Roundup weedkiller, opening the door to multi-billion awards of dollars.
By not taking up the case, the high court has made final a previous court decision condemning the group to pay 25 million dollars to a pensioner, Edwin Hardeman, who imputes his glyphosate-based weedkiller cancer.
Consistent with practice, the Supreme Court did not provide reasons for 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 reached 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). She may have to pay more depending on how complaints are handled.
Bayer shares fell 2.26% at the end of the session to 61.93 euros on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
“Baer respectfully expresses its disagreement with the Supreme Court's decision” but “is totally ready to face the legal risk associated with potential future complaints in the United States,” the group responded in a statement.
The company says it “admits no wrong or liability” and “continues to support its Roundup products, a valuable tool for efficient agricultural production around the world.”
Ready to fight complaints 'unreasonable'
Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2015, was one of the first to sue Monsanto, 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, and filed a civil suit in 2016.
Bayer had was ordered in 2019 to pay him $ 25 million in damages, a decision upheld on appeal in 2021.
The company then turned to the Supreme Court of the United States. She challenged the verdict, pointing out that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that the use of Roundup does not merit a special cancer warning.
The general counsel representing the government had argued in May for the group's request to be denied, marking a change in the administration's tone from the Trump presidency. The Department of Justice then sided with Bayer at the time of the appeal.
The main active substance in Roundup is glyphosate, classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the International Center for Cancer Research (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO).
But Monsanto has always insisted that no study had concluded that glyphosate and Roundup, which were marketed in the 1970s, were dangerous.
The German group Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, has since been embroiled in multiple weedkiller-related lawsuits in the United States.
He signed in June 2020 with the representatives of the applicants a 10 billion dollar agreement. The parties had agreed to add 2 billion dollars to it in order to settle future complaints, but this agreement was rejected in May 2021 by a Californian judge.
In an attempt to put an end to the all procedures, the group had presented in May 2021 a five-point plan 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 2010 agreement.
On Tuesday, Bayer stressed that it was “completely prepared to defend before the courts cases where the expectations of plaintiffs are unreasonable and go beyond the limits of this program”.
The German company notes that several judgments related to the weedkiller have recently been rendered in his favor and recalls that the Supreme Court must rule on another case on which he has appealed: a decision awarding $ 87 million to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, both affected of lymphoma after years of Roundup use.