The US Supreme Court declines to review a ruling linking the herbicide Roundup to cancer, exposing the manufacturer to litigation
The US Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday an appeal filed by German chemical giant Bayer to overturn a landmark ruling linking the weedkiller Roundup with cancer. The company faces thousands of similar claims, which have plagued it since it acquired Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in 2018.
The US court declined to review the case of a man from California, Edwin Hardeman, who was awarded $25 million in damages. He used Roundup for 26 years at his home before being diagnosed with a form of lymphoma. He succeeded in making the case for a causal relationship between the two, with his claim upheld by an appeals court in May 2021.
The Supreme Court decision has scotched Bayer's plan to mitigate compensation payouts in thousands of similar cases. The German firm, which acquired Monsanto for $63 billion, has over 30,000 claims outstanding after resolving more than 100,000, it said in its yearly report in March.
Last year, Bayer set aside $4.5 billion to pay possible damages in addition to the $11.6 billion it reserved for litigation previously. It largely put on hold the settlement of claims, pending a decision on the appeal, which it filed in the US Supreme Court in August last year.
Bayer "respectfully disagrees" with the court's rejection, the firm said on Tuesday, adding: "The company believes that the decision undermines the ability of companies to rely on official actions taken by expert regulatory agencies."
In its legal argument, the company said the European Environment Agency did not find a connection between glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, and cancer. This means Bayer does not have to label the product as potentially cancerogenic when it sells it in the EU. The lawsuits against it argue that such a warning should have been placed to warn customers about the risk.
Hardeman, who sued Monsanto in 2016, relied on a decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, which said glyphosate can probably cause cancer in humans.
Bayer has said it plans to retire glyphosate-based weedkillers from the retail market in the US next year.