San Francisco (dpa) - Numerous US lawsuits alleging cancer risks of weed killers with the active ingredient glyphosate have brought Bayer into a serious crisis. The Leverkusen agrochemical and pharmaceutical giant rejects the allegations and has contested the previous judgments.
The legal dispute with which the debacle for the group began is now moving on to the next round: the first hearing before the Court of Appeals will take place in San Francisco today (6:00 p.m. CEST) on Tuesday. Bayer plans to have the guilty verdict it suffered in the first glyphosate trial in the United States lifted there. But even if this succeeds - there are several other US lawsuits.
August 10, 2018 was a bleak day for the German DAX company: the jury jury of a court in San Francisco ruled that the US seed manufacturer Monsanto, which recently became part of the Bayer Group, gave cancer victim Dewayne Johnson a total of $ 289 million ($ 260 million) Euros) to pay compensation. Bayer suddenly stood with his back to the wall, even though the court quickly reduced the sum to $ 78 million. The ruling suddenly revealed the high risks the group had taken on with the already controversial Monsanto takeover.
Claimant Johnson, who was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 2014, had blamed Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup for his fatal condition and accused the company, which is now part of Bayer, of hiding the dangers. After a four-week trial, the jury largely followed the plaintiff's reasoning. It was a huge mess for Bayer, the Leverkusen company had only recently bought Monsanto for around $ 63 billion - and thus also assumed the legal burdens. These were now increasing rapidly, because the harsh judgment called many more plaintiffs on the scene.
This was followed by two further defeats before US courts, image problems, and a sharp drop in the Bayer share price - the management of CEO Werner Baumann came under massive criticism. Most recently, Bayer said it was faced with 52,500 US lawsuits filed for alleged cancer risks from Monsanto's weed killers containing glyphosate. The group is not aware of any guilt, the products are harmless when used properly, the group claims again and again. The company relies on various scientific studies and regulatory authorities.
According to Bayer, the first-instance guilty verdict in the United States came about despite insufficient evidence. In addition, various mistakes had been made in the proceedings, for example by not allowing certain evidence at all. Bayer also may not have helped that in the trials, jury juries previously held by laypeople judged who may have been more open to the plaintiffs' arguments than professional judges. This will no longer be the case in the appeal process - a panel consisting of three judges will decide here.
Although Bayer's great crisis started with the first judgment, which is now being negotiated in appeal, the overall outcome could easily become a side note in the end. Because talks with the lawyers of most of the remaining plaintiffs in the USA have been going on for a long time. Experts anticipate a compromise that could cost Bayer an estimated $ 10 billion. The group, however, emphasizes that such a solution should only be considered "if it is economically sensible and structured in such a way that future legal disputes will be brought to a conclusion".