Jurors have sided with plaintiffs in all three cases over Bayer AG’s herbicide Roundup to go to trial so far, finding that glyphosate causes cancer and awarding a total of more than $2.2 billion in damages.
Those results underscore a growing skepticism of juries to trust the science conducted by regulators, which, if it continues, could have profound impacts on the ability of companies to defend themselves in product liability cases, several legal analysts told Bloomberg Environment.
“Over the past 10 years, jurors have become increasingly skeptical of government regulators and the notion that science is pure,” said Allan Kanner, a plaintiffs’ attorney with Kanner & Whiteley LLC who handles toxic tort cases.
Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer AG last year and which makes Roundup, has been accused of covering up the chemical’s health risks.
The first Roundup verdict came in August 2018, when a state jury awarded California groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson $289 million, which was later reduced to $78 million. Since then, the number of plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits blaming Roundup for their cancers has grown to 18,400, according to Bayer’s second-quarter report released July 30. And the actions have been filed by a wide range of plaintiffs including, just last month, former NFL running back and ESPN analyst Merril Hoge.
Despite losing at trial in each of the three cases to go before a jury, the company remains confident that appellate judges will be more willing to side with the company’s toxicology evidence, which includes findings by both federal and international regulators.
“We continue to believe that we have meritorious defenses and intend to defend ourselves vigorously,” the company said in its report.
But Kanner said that strategy is based on a premise that regulatory experts still hold a deciding influence over jurors.
“That model, which Bayer has used in these first three trials, is based on a world view among jurors that no longer exists, or is rapidly eroding,” he said.
As the number of cases against Bayer mounts, speculation is growing among legal analysts that glyphosate has the potential to prompt a raft of claims globally. MORE