U.S. Supreme Court rejects Bayer’s bid to drop Roundup weedkiller lawsuits

WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Bayer AG’s (BAYGn.DE) bid to dismiss lawsuits from customers who claim its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer as the company Germany is seeking to avoid potentially billions of dollars in damages.

Judges rejected an appeal by Bayer and left in place a lower court ruling that upheld $25 million in damages awarded to California resident Edwin Hardeman, a Roundup user who blamed his cancer on glyphosate-based weedkillers of the pharmaceutical and chemical giant.

The Supreme Court action dealt a blow to Bayer as the company maneuvers to limit its legal liability in thousands of cases. The justices have a second Bayer motion pending on a related issue that they could act on in the coming weeks.

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Bayer shares were down 2.9% on the news, wiping out gains in the previous two trading sessions.

In May, US President Joe Biden’s administration urged the court not to hear Bayer’s appeal, reversing the government’s position previously taken under former President Donald Trump.

Bayer lost three trials in which Roundup users received tens of millions of dollars each, while winning four trials. Bayer had pinned its hopes for relief on the conservative-majority Supreme Court, which has a reputation for being pro-business.

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

On Friday, a federal appeals court ordered the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider whether the active ingredient glyphosate poses unreasonable risks to humans and the environment.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, agreed with several environmental, agricultural worker and food safety groups that the EPA had failed to sufficiently consider whether the glyphosate caused cancer and threatened endangered species. Read more

Bayer asked the Supreme Court to review the verdict in the Hardeman case, which was upheld by the 9th Circuit in May 2021. Hardeman had regularly used Roundup for 26 years at his Northern California home before being diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. .

Bayer said in its March annual report that it resolved about 107,000 cases out of about 138,000 total cases.

Bayer, which also makes aspirin, birth control pills Yasmin and stroke-preventing drug Xarelto, among other products, argued that cancer claims about Roundup and glyphosate run counter to sound science and product clearance by the EPA.

The agency confirmed guidelines that glyphosate is not carcinogenic and does not pose a 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 of the alleged cancer risk.

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

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

In July 2021, Bayer took an additional $4.5 billion litigation provision in the event of an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling or in the event the justices decline to consider its appeal.

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

Bayer plans to replace glyphosate in weed killers for the US residential market for home gardeners with other active ingredients.

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Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Lawrence Hurley

Thomson Reuters

Washington-based journalist covering legal cases with a focus on the United States Supreme Court, Pulitzer Prize winner for a team project on how the qualified immunity defense protects police officers accused of excessive force.

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