The California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Bayer AG seeking to reverse a jury verdict that the company’s Roundup herbicide caused a groundskeeper’s cancer, leaving the company with few remaining options to avoid paying a $20.4 million judgment.
The German drug and agriculture conglomerate had challenged a 2018 verdict in California state court that found the company’s Roundup products posed a danger to users like plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, and that the company failed to warn consumers of potential health risks. It was the first of three jury decisions in favor of Roundup-using plaintiffs, helping build a wave of lawsuits and eventually leading Bayer to strike a $10.9 billion settlement deal with tens of thousands of plaintiffs in July.
Bayer didn’t admit to any wrongdoing as part of the July settlement and will continue to sell Roundup. The herbicide is the world’s most widely used, sprayed on residential gardens and on tens of millions of acres of crops genetically engineered to withstand it.
Bayer acquired Monsanto, Roundup’s maker, in a $63 billion deal that closed weeks before the jury ruled in favor of Mr. Johnson, a former school groundskeeper. The company has maintained that Roundup is safe, citing regulatory reviews by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other authorities.
The company has said it would continue to challenge the three jury verdicts as it implements the broader settlement. On Friday, a federal appeals court will hear arguments in Bayer’s challenge to a jury verdict in favor of Edwin Hardeman, a Northern California resident who claimed his yearslong Roundup use led to his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.