Legal costs will determine whether Bayer AG would settle glyphosate related cases

According to one of the attorneys for the plaintiff, Bayer’s claims on glyphosate were “hypocritical beyond belief” given its own efforts to control the message on glyphosate, the most recent of which is a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post.

Bayer’s Chief Executive, Werner Baumann has let it be known that Bayer AG could potentially considering settling lawsuits over Monsanto’s glyphosate-containing weed-killers depending on the costs the court levies on it. Baumann was however quick to add that Bayer will remain focused on defending the combined company against claims that Monsanto’s glyphosate-containing weed-killers cause cancer.

Earlier this year, Bayer acquired Monsanto for $63 billion.

“If we can settle nuisances at some point where the defense costs in preparing cases are higher than potential settlement amounts, we will of course consider it from an economic standpoint,” said Baumann while adding: “We will resolutely and with all means defend ourselves in this (glyphosate) litigation.”

Following a San Francisco jury awarding $289 million to Dewayne Johnson on the grounds that Monsanto failed to warn the school groundskeeper and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by glyphosate-based RoundUp and Ranger Pro, Bayer’s shares have lost 25% of their value since that August 10 ruling. A judge has later reduced the award amount to $78 million.

Johnson has terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that he alleges was caused by the herbicides.

Bayer has stuck to its position saying glyphosates do not cause cancer and that decades of scientific studies and real-world usage have shown the chemical to be safe for human usage.

Incidentally, the number of glyphosate cases that Bayer faces across the United States has jumped to more than 8,700. This has prompted heightened investors concerns about the impact of litigation costs on Bayer’s bottom line.

Baumann has expressed confidence that Bayer could handle the litigation, saying the $12 million settlement of 4,000 lawsuits over its contraceptive Mirena device was “inexpensive”.

Incidentally, Bayer has won five of six trials over its best-selling bloodthinner Xarelto, over which it faces 24,000 U.S. lawsuits. The sixth jury found in favor of a plaintiff, but a judge later overturned the decision.

“Due to our exposure as a pharmaceutical company, we have the experience to defend those (glyphosate) cases,” said Baumann.

He went on to add, Bayer’s legal strategy had been revised following the integration of Bayer and Monsanto.

Last week, Bayer added the attorneys from law firm Arnold & Portner who won the Xarelto cases for the company to its glyphosate defense team. It is also trying to change the juror selection process for upcoming trials.

However in a filing last week to a San Francisco federal court, where a new glyphosate trial is scheduled to begin on February 25, 2019, Bayer stated, the “jury pool likely has grown more hostile” due to negative media coverage following the Johnson verdict.

According to Michael Miller, one of the attorneys for the plaintiff, Bayer’s claims were “hypocritical beyond belief” given its own efforts to control the message on glyphosate, the most recent of which is a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post.

Bayer has asked U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing the San Francisco case and some 580 others, to greatly expand the jury pool and question prospective jurors about their knowledge of the media coverage of the cases.

Chhabria is expected to decide on the requests in December.

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