With angry investors at the gates and thousands of lawsuits tied up in court, Bayer’s executives have scrambled to keep their head above water. Looks like relief isn’t coming any time soon, at least not in the courtroom.
A California jury hit Bayer, which now sells glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, with $2 billion in punitive damages on Monday as part of a civil suit tying the product to a couple’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The jury also awarded the pair of plaintiffs $55 million in combined compensatory damages, making the combined $2.55 billion the single largest jury verdict leveled against Bayer in its history.
Bayer acquired Roundup in 2018 as part of its $63 billion Monsanto buyout. The company faces some 13,400 liability lawsuits over the product, which has long stood accused of leading to cancer in agricultural workers.
Bayer said it intends to appeal the verdict, claiming the jury’s findings were at odds with a recent Environmental Protection Agency opinion clearing glyphosate as a cancer-causing agent. Now with three consecutive losses in California courts, Bayer said it will pivot its legal strategy there toward appeals and other venues rather than defending Roundup in jury trials.
While the punitive damages in this case will likely be cut substantially, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 9:1 punitive-to-compensatory award rule, the verdict casts a shadow over Bayer as an indicator of its eventual Roundup litigation costs.
On Monday, Bayer’s shares dipped from $16.36 to $15.90—a nearly 30% free fall. By press time Tuesday, the company’s stock had evened out at $15.91 per share.