June 22, 2022 – The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from pharmaceutical company Bayer to dismiss thousands of lawsuits that claim the company’s Roundup weedkiller causes cancer.
The justices turned away the appeal and left in place a lower court decision for $25 million in damages in favor of Edwin Hardeman, a California man who says he got non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from using Roundup for nearly 3 decades to treat poison oak, overgrowth, and weeds at his home in San Francisco.
Hardeman’s lawsuit has served as a test case for thousands of similar lawsuits, according to The Associated Press. The Supreme Court’s decision dealt a blow to Bayer as the German company seeks to avoid potentially billions of dollars in damages in those cases.
The case results have been mixed so far. Bayer has won four trials but has lost three trials in favor of Roundup users, who have been awarded tens of millions of dollars each, according to Reuters. The Supreme Court has a second Bayer petition pending on a related issue that it could decide in coming weeks. The company has hoped for relief from the conservative-majority court, which has a reputation for being pro-business.
After Tuesday’s announcement, Bayer said in a statement that it “respectfully disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision” and that the company is “fully prepared to manage the litigation risk associated with potential future claims in the U.S.”
Last July, the company set aside $4.5 billion to deal with the lawsuits, the AP reported. The company previously set aside nearly $12 billion for settlements and litigation.
In May, the Biden administration urged the Supreme Court to hear the Bayer appeal, reversing the position taken under the Trump administration, Reuters reported.
On Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which upheld Hardeman’s case in May 2021, ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take another look at whether glyphosate poses unreasonable risks to humans and the environment, the AP said. Glyphosate is included in many Roundup products.
The appeals court has previously sided with several advocacy groups for farm workers, food safety, and the environment that the EPA didn’t adequately consider whether glyphosate causes cancer and hurts endangered species, Reuters reported. The agency issued a finding in 2020 that said glyphosate doesn’t pose a serious public health risk and is “not likely” to cause cancer.
Bayer has argued in court that cancer claims related to Roundup and glyphosate don’t match with the EPA’s findings, as well as clearance from the agency. The latest verdict in favor of the company came last week in Oregon, the AP reported.
“The company believes that the [Supreme Court] decision undermines the ability of companies to rely on official actions taken by expert regulatory agencies, as it permits every U.S. state to require a different product label” in conflict with federal laws, Bayer said in its statement.
Bayer, which also makes aspirin, Yasmin birth control, and the stroke prevention drug Xarelto, acquired the Roundup brand in 2018 as part of its $63 billion purchase of Monsanto, Reuters reported. Bayer has announced plans to replace glyphosate in weedkillers for the U.S. residential market beginning in 2023.