Bayer takes Roundup battle to Supreme Court

Roundup-related lawsuits have dogged Bayer since it bought Monsanto in 2018. | Reuters/Mike Blake photo

Company hopes top U.S. bench will reverse lower court rulings that ordered millions of dollars in glyphosate damages

FRANKFURT (Reuters) — Bayer, trying to contain billions of dollars in legal costs, has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court verdict that upheld damages to a customer who blamed his cancer on the company’s glyphosate-based herbicide.

Bayer recently lost a third appeal against verdicts that sided with users of Roundup, awarding them tens of millions of dollars each. It left Bayer’s drugs and pesticides group to pin hopes for relief on the United States’ top court.

Bayer asked the Supreme Court on Aug. 16 to review one such verdict by the federal Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found in favour of California resident and Roundup user Edwin Hardeman, it said in a statement.

The maker of aspirin, Yasmin birth-control pills and stroke prevention drug Xarelto has repeatedly argued that the cancer claims over Roundup go against sound science and product clearance from the federal environmental regulator.

“The Ninth Circuit’s errors mean that a company can be severely punished for marketing a product without a cancer warning when the near-universal scientific and regulatory consensus is that the product does not cause cancer, and the responsible federal agency has forbidden such a warning,” the company said.

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

Bayer struck a settlement deal in principle with plaintiffs last year but failed to win court approval for a separate agreement on how to handle future cases, as it intended to keep the product on the market.

Last month, it took an additional litigation provision of $4.5 billion to cover any unfavourable ruling by the Supreme Court. That came on top of $11.6 billion it previously set aside for settlements and litigation over the matter.

Among other measures to contain the legal onslaught, Bayer plans to replace glyphosate in herbicides for the U.S. residential market with other active ingredients.

However, it will continue to sell the herbicide to farmers, who rely on it heavily, and whose role in the litigation has been described as negligible by Bayer.

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