California jury awards couple $2 billion in latest Roundup herbicide defeat for Bayer
A jury dealt Bayer AG a third court defeat, awarding $2.055 billion to a California couple who blamed the German company’s Roundup weedkiller for causing their cancer.
The verdict by the Northern California jury comes as Bayer BAYRY, -2.76% faces a revolt from shareholders over last year’s acquisition of Monsanto Co., which exposed Bayer to some 13,400 claims tying Roundup to cancer.
Two previous trial losses have helped wipe more than 30% off Bayer’s share price. Last month, a majority of Bayer shareholders refused to endorse management’s actions in the past year, indicating that investors lack confidence in how the company is being run.
Bayer has appealed a $78.5 million verdict reached in August, the first Roundup case to go to trial. It has said it would appeal the second, a more than $80 million jury award decided in March.
Some investors have pushed Bayer to settle the cases soon, though companies facing product-liability claims often bring a dozen or more cases to trial before seriously entering settlement talks.
Reaching a settlement in the case is complicated by the fact that the product continues to be sold to consumers and farmers and doesn’t carry a cancer-warning label, which means the potential pool of plaintiffs could expand indefinitely. The company could reach a deal with the current batch of plaintiffs and set aside money to pay out future claims, or continue fighting case by case to gather more data points. People familiar with Bayer say the company isn’t planning to settle before at least a first few cases have gone through appeal.
An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.
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