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Bayer fails US Supreme Court in glyphosate case

This is a major setback for the agrochemical and pharmaceutical group Bayer. On Tuesday, June 21, the United States Supreme Court rejected his request for an appeal in the glyphosate case. A positive decision would have allowed the German company to settle the litigation that has weighed on it since the takeover, in 2018, of the seed and agrochemical company Monsanto, for 63 billion dollars (60 billion euros, at the current price). Since then, it has lost a third of its value on the stock market and its image has been seriously affected by resounding lawsuits.

The specific case concerned the complaint of a Californian, Edwin Hardeman, suffering from cancer of the lymph nodes which he attributes to the use, for years, of the weedkiller Roundup, containing glyphosate. At the end of a trial held in 2019, he was awarded $80 million in damages, later reduced to $25 million. Bayer had appealed the judgment in mid-2021 to the Supreme Court, after being dismissed at first instance. In mid-May 2022, a failure had emerged when the Attorney General, Elizabeth Prelogar, who represents the government before the Supreme Court, had recommended to the judges not to take up the case. On Tuesday, Bayer shares fell on the stock market following the decision, before rising slightly during the day.

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On the merits, it was a question of whether Bayer should have mentioned on its products that glyphosate could cause cancer. The plaintiff accuses him of not having informed him of such a risk in the instructions for use. The group considers the warning to be false and misleading, relying on classifications from registration authorities, which continue to recognize the safety of glyphosate. The lawyers of the group thus advance that the American environmental protection authority EPA classifies the molecule as safe. Which means, according to them, that she would not have accepted to validate such a warning in the United States. But the Ministry of Justice does not see things the same way. Bayer has announced its intention to appeal further decisions to the Supreme Court. But after that of Tuesday, his chances of success seem reduced.

Victim Compensation Program

The German group could be faced with a series of new disputes, for an indefinite period. Since cancer of the lymph nodes has a very long latency – five to ten years – it is possible that complaints will accumulate for a long time. After three rounds of lost lawsuits, Bayer had reached an out-of-court settlement with the plaintiffs’ attorneys to end the lawsuits in exchange for a payment of around $10 billion. However, in four other subsequent cases, the company had won in similar cases, including one before popular juries in California, in December 2021… Which does not necessarily mean a reversal of the situation in its favor.

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