By Tina Bellon
(Reuters) – A juror who was part of a panel that delivered an $80 million award against Bayer AG after finding that its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup caused a man’s cancer has urged the presiding judge to uphold the decision.
A letter from the juror written on July 4 was posted to the court docket on Monday as part of legal filings by Bayer. The company accused the juror of bias and called on the judge to disregard the letter in his decision making.
In the letter, the unidentified juror told U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco that the $80 million in awards “were no accident” and the result of “meticulous planning” by the jury.
The letter was a response to statements by Chhabria during a court hearing last week, when the judge said he would have to reduce the $75 million punitive damages portion of the award on constitutional grounds.
Following a four-week trial, a federal jury on March 27 awarded $5 million in compensatory and $75 million in punitive damages to Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014.
U.S. Supreme Court rulings limit the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages to 9 to 1, which in this case would put the maximum for punitive damages at $45 million.
In the letter, the juror said higher damages ratios were allowed in extraordinary cases, echoing arguments Hardeman’s lawyers made during Tuesday’s hearing, when they urged Chhabria to affirm the total award.
“Based on the evidence provided, ‘reprehensible’ is much too kind a word to describe the actions of the Monsanto employees,” the juror wrote.
Bayer, which bought Roundup maker Monsanto for $63 billion last year, says Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate are safe for human use and not carcinogenic. It faces Roundup cancer lawsuits by more than 13,400 plaintiffs.
The company in filings on Monday only identified the letter writer as “juror #5.”
A lawyer for the company said he had observed the juror attending Tuesday’s hearing, talking to Hardeman’s lawyers and hugging Hardeman and his wife. Bayer said juror #5 had also displayed bias against the company during jury selection.
It was juror #5 who was responsible for bringing allegedly improper comments by another juror to the attention of the judge who ultimately excused that other juror without giving Monsanto a chance to challenge the dismissal, according to court filings by Bayer.
Last week’s letter marks the second time jurors in the Roundup litigation called on judges to uphold their verdicts.
In October, several jurors who delivered a $289 million verdict against Monsanto, finding Roundup caused a man’s terminal cancer, wrote to the San Francisco trial court judge, asking her to “respect and honor the verdict.”
The judge ultimately upheld the jury’s finding but reduced the award to $78 million. The case is on appeal.
Legal experts at the time said the letters were unusual, as jurors generally do not engage with post-trial proceedings following a verdict.
Bayer on Monday said the letters deprived it of fair trials.
“The fact that jurors from both trials wrote letters in support of constitutionally impermissible verdicts is highly unusual, and generates further anti-Monsanto bias in the Bay Area that will infect future Roundup trials,” the company said.
(Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)