Monsanto Roundup lawsuit: Jury awards $289 million to cancer patient

Pablo Tucker
August 16, 2018

The stock drop sent a cautionary signal to the company that acquired Monsanto, the maker of the weedkiller, in June for $63 billion.

The court decision came just weeks after Bayer sealed its mammoth takeover bid for Monsanto, one of the largest in German corporate history.

Berenberg analyst Alistair Campbell said resolving the issue could cost Bayer $5 billion, citing a rough estimate based on a past product liability settlements such as Merck & Co Inc's $4.9 billion settlement over painkiller Vioxx or Bayer's $4.2 billion total settlement over the Baycol cholesterol drug. (Many work out of Europe, where extended August vacations are in full swing.) Leacock, however, cut his rating on Bayer to Hold from Outperform on Sunday, and slashed his price target to 90 euros a share from €135. That extended its rout this year to 19 percent.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in the U.S. state of Virginia, said the plaintiff's evidence that Monsanto "knew or should have known that Roundup caused his cancer" could benefit those now seeking damages from Monsanto, as well as encourage new filings.

Shares in German farm chemicals, materials and drug company Bayer have plunged in the wake of a USA court verdict against Monsanto, which Bayer has acquired. Monsanto genetically engineered the DNA of corn, soybeans and other crops to make them resistant to Roundup; it now makes more revenue from seeds and traits than it does from herbicide.

That would amount to approximately $25 million a year on damages, over several years, to finally reach a conclusion in the California Supreme Court, Johnson's attorney Timothy Litzenburg stated. The company will be appealing the verdict.

"The Johnson vs Monsanto verdict is a win for all of humanity and all life on earth", said Zen Honeycutt, founding Executive Director of non-profit group Moms Across America.

Monsanto dates from 1901 when it was founded in Missouri as a chemical company.

Working for a school district in Benicia, California, about 40 miles east of San Francisco, Mr Johnson mixed and sprayed hundreds of gallons of Roundup. Doctors diagnosed him in 2014 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was seeking $412 million in damages.

The case of school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging glyphosate causes cancer.

Monsanto said on Friday that it would appeal against the verdict. Johnson's case was fast-tracked to trial given the severity of his condition and his grave prognosis.

"They're going to appeal, and we're going to have to see what happens then", said Ulrich Huwald, an analyst with Warburg Research in Hamburg.

The firm, which is facing up to 5,000 similar court cases across the U.S., said on Friday it would appeal against the verdict.

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