A Philadelphia jury has ordered agrochemical giant Bayer to pay $2.25 billion in damages to John McKivison of Pennsylvania, who claimed that his non-Hodgkin lymphoma resulted from using the company’s Roundup weed killer. 

The jury found Bayer liable for negligence, prompting a $2 billion punitive damages award on top of $250 million in compensatory damages. This verdict follows a series of legal battles over Roundup, with more than 165,000 claims filed against Bayer for alleged personal injuries linked to the herbicide.

Decision Sends Message: Roundup Caused Cancer

The unanimous jury verdict found that Roundup is a cancer-causing herbicide and that Monsanto, the Bayer-owned company that makes it, was negligent. 

In a joint release, McKivison’s attorneys stated that the punitive damages award calls for “top-to-bottom change” within the multinational corporation.

Bayer announced that they will appeal the verdict. The company said in a statement the verdict is “unconstitutionally excessive” and goes against what scientific research and regulatory bodies around the world have said about the safety of Roundup.

The company claims that Roundup, introduced by Monsanto in 1974, is safe for human health when used according to its label. Several national and international regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the European Commission, and Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, say that Roundup does not cause cancer.

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Roundup Lawsuits Pile Up as Bayer’s Financial Fortunes Fall

Bayer’s Roundup troubles have intensified despite a 2020 settlement that saw the company pay a more than $10 billion Roundup settlement to resolve most pending cases. 

As of January 2024, a total of 4,177 Roundup lawsuits were pending against Bayer in a federal multidistrict litigation.

The $2.25 billion verdict was the fourth win for plaintiffs following a string of six plaintiff losses. Bayer’s shifting fortunes have raised questions from shareholders about Bayer’s legal strategy. At the same time, the rising tide of verdicts is increasingly impacting investors. 

Shares of Bayer dropped by almost 3% before the verdict in the Roundup litigation, causing concerns among investors. Bank of America also downgraded the company’s performance before the verdict. 

Financial analysts chalk the decline to uncertainties surrounding Bayer’s liability and potential economic ramifications. Despite initial considerations to break off its crop science business, Bayer recently announced a focus on internal reorganization, temporarily setting aside plans to address Roundup-related liabilities.