Over the past few years, California courtrooms have not been kind to Bayer, crushing the agricultural company under the weight of high-ticket lawsuits related to glyphosate-based products. Bayer had lost suit after suit, sometimes costing “only” tens of millions of dollars, while one liability award even grew into the billions. This week, a Los Angeles jury handed Bayer its first win on this front.
The case centered on Ezra Clark, who developed Burkitt’s lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that is more likely to develop in children. According to Reuters, Ezra’s mother, Destiny Clark, argued that Ezra developed the disease after he was exposed to Roundup, which she sprayed on weeds at the family residence.
Roundup is the most common weedkiller in the U.S. and uses glyphosate as its active ingredient. Nearly all scientific bodies and associated research have affirmed the safety of glyphosate. The fact that the three earlier glyphosate cases Bayer was involved in relied more on emotional testimony rather than scientific findings frustrated many in the agricultural sector. (This type of litigation is civil, not criminal, so there is significantly lower standards of legal liability.)
Bayer’s involvement in these lawsuits arose after the company acquired Monsanto, which created Roundup, several years ago. Because of the trajectory of the first few cases, Bayer has moved toward settling the majority of pending and future claims against it related to glyphosate. The settlement amount is expected to total more than $11 billion — $9.6 billion for current claims and $2 billion for future ones.
In the latest California case, the Clark family sued, claiming that Bayer failed to warn her of alleged cancer risks of using Roundup. According to the Lymphoma Foundation, Ezra’s specific form of the disease accounts for 0.3 percent to 1.3 percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas (but as much as 30 percent of children’s cases). Burkitt’s lymphoma is also rare in Western countries, but is much more common in Central Africa.
According to Bloomberg Law, Bayer’s lawyers argued that numerous studies have shown Roundup is safe and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded the main ingredient in the product — glyphosate — is not a carcinogen. They also told jurors that Ezra’s limited exposure to Roundup couldn’t have caused his illness.
“While we have great sympathy for Ezra Clark and his family, the jury carefully considered the science applicable to this case and determined that Roundup was not the cause of his illness,” the Bayer said in a statement after the ruling.
Other major lawsuits involving non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Bayer included those of Dewayne Johnson, Edwin Hardeman, and Alva and Alberta Pilliod. The Pilliod case had the highest initial ruling, with a jury awarding the couple $2 billion. At least one of the cases is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
There is another Roundup trial under way in San Bernardino, California.