By Tina Bellon
(Reuters) – Bayer AG has asked a California judge to overrule a $2 billion verdict by jurors who found the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer responsible for a couple’s cancer, arguing the jury decision was not supported by evidence.
The German drugmaker and chemicals company in court filings on Monday in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland blamed the massive verdict on “inflammatory, fabricated and irrelevant evidence” from the couples’ lawyers.
“The resulting trial focused not on ascertaining the truth regarding the state of the science, causation, and compliance with legal duties, but instead on vilifying Monsanto in the abstract,” the company, which bought Monsanto last year for $63 billion, said in motions filed with the court.
Bayer faces Roundup cancer lawsuits by more than 13,400 plaintiffs across the United States. It denies the allegations, saying the weed killer and its active ingredient glyphosate is safe for human use.
The verdict and two prior jury decisions against Bayer have triggered steep declines in Bayer shares, leaving it with a market valuation of $56 billion.
Bayer asked Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, who presided over the roughly seven-week long trial, to reverse the jury decision and enter judgment in Bayer’s favor, or order a new trial.
The Oakland jury on May 13 awarded more than $2 billion to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, finding their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to have been caused by using Roundup to kill weeds on their property between 1975 and 2011.
The jury awarded $18 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod, and $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to his wife.
Bayer in its court filings called the punitive damages excessive and unconstitutional, and asked Smith to toss or significantly reduce the award. The large punitive damages award is likely to be reduced due to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that limit the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages to 9:1.
Michael Miller, a lawyer for the Pilliods, in a statement on Tuesday said the verdict would be sustained.
“Monsanto is arguing the same worn out arguments it unsuccessfully used in the first trial,” Miller said.
In that trial, a California jury in 2018 awarded $289 million to a California groundskeeper, finding Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killers caused his cancer. That award was later reduced to $78 million and being appealed.
In March, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $80 million to another California man after finding Roundup caused his cancer. The company said it would appeal that decision.
(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Bill Berkrot)