A US federal judge on Monday slashed a damages award Bayer AG owed a California man who blamed Roundup weed killer for his cancer, from US$80.27 million to US$25.27 million, while rejecting the company’s bid for a new trial.
US District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco said evidence against the former Monsanto Co, which Bayer bought last year, supported the US$5.27 million in compensatory damages that a jury awarded Edwin Hardeman.
He also said the jury acted reasonably in awarding punitive damages.
Chhabria nonetheless reduced punitive damages to US$20 million from US$75 million, saying that while Monsanto “deserves to be punished” the higher award was “constitutionally impermissible” because it was nearly 15 times the compensatory damages award.
“Monsanto’s conduct, while reprehensible, does not warrant a ratio of that magnitude, particularly in the absence of evidence showing intentional concealment of a known or obvious safety risk,” Chhabria wrote.
Hardeman said he used Roundup for many years starting in the 1980s to treat poison oak and weeds on his property. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2014, but is now in remission.
He is one of more than 13,400 plaintiffs who have sued Bayer and Monsanto over Roundup, saying the herbicide’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is unsafe.
His case was considered a bellwether for hundreds of similar cases before Chhabria.
Bayer called Chhabria’s decision “a step in the right direction,” but said it still plans to appeal.
Bayer said the verdict and damages award “conflict with both the weight of the extensive science that supports the safety of Roundup, and the conclusions of leading health regulators in the US and around the world that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.”
Hardeman can appeal the decision to reduce the damages award.
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