Policy

Supreme Court rejects Bayer bid to block lawsuits over Roundup herbicide

FILE – Containers of Roundup are displayed on a store shelf in San Francisco, on Feb. 24, 2019. A federal appeals court has rejected a Trump administration finding that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, does not pose a serious health risk and is “not likely” to cause cancer in humans. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from Bayer that sought to throw out a “bellwether” lawsuit alleging that its Roundup weed killer is carcinogenic.  

The decision means a judgment ordering the company to pay $25 million to Edwin Hardeman will remain in place.

Hardeman’s lawsuit claimed his use of Roundup led him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  

In May, a San Francisco federal appeals court agreed with a trial verdict finding Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018, did not adequately warn consumers about the cancer risk connected to the product.

In that ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals described Hardeman’s case as a “bellwether” that could clear the way thousands of similar lawsuits.  

Monsanto appealed the decision to the high court, arguing that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finding that the product was safe superseded California’s failure-to-warn-law, the basis for the ruling.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s website still lists a finding that there is no evidence that glysophate, Roundup’s active ingredient, causes cancer. However, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer deemed it “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015

In December, the court asked for input from the U.S. Solicitor General on the matter. Although Bayer expressed hope its appeal would be heard at the time, the company expressed disappointment in a statement Tuesday. 

“The company believes that the 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,” a Bayer spokesman said, claiming this contradicted federal statute. “While this decision brings an end to the Hardeman case, there are likely to be future cases, including Roundup cases, that present the U.S. Supreme Court with preemption questions like Hardeman and could also create a Circuit split.” 

Attorney Majed Nachawati, who represents thousands of other plaintiffs who claim the product contributed to their cancer, hailed the decision in a statement Tuesday.

“The Supreme Court has spoken loud and clear. Bayer and Monsanto cannot shirk responsibility to cancer victims who have been harmed by cancer-causing Roundup weedkiller,” he said. “We are looking forward to the next trial so another jury can hear the facts.”

Updated at 1:33 p.m.

Tags Carcinogen EPA Roundup Supreme Court Weed killer

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