U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Pivotal Roundup Case

Bayer continues to suffer legal consequences due to its 2018 purchase of the much-maligned company Monsanto. Bayer inherited thousands of lawsuits over alleged health risks posed by Monsanto product Roundup, resulting in lengthy litigation for the German company. One such case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in August 2021.

Hardeman v. Monsanto

Hardeman v. Monsanto is a case that started in California. Hardeman is a farmer in northern California who regularly used Roundup for 26 years. He was recently diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which he claims was caused by Roundup.

The basis for his lawsuit is a California state law that requires companies to warn consumers about the potential dangers of their products. This law is stricter than EPA regulations regarding labeling for insecticides. 

A California court sided with Hardeman, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the ruling. Hardeman was awarded $25 million in damages. Bayer appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in August. 

In December, the Supreme Court asked the Biden administration to weigh in on the case. Representing the administration, the solicitor general’s office offered its opinion on May 10. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said the appeal should be dismissed in a filing to the court.

An Expected Result

There is a good chance that the U.S. Supreme Court will dismiss this appeal. The justices often give deference to the solicitor general in cases like this. Investors are also aware of this likely outcome. Trading for Bayer shares was down the day after the administration filed its opinion.

If the appeal is denied, this won’t only mean that Hardeman receives $25 million, it could also have a significant impact on the thousands of other lawsuits still working through the courts. Recognizing this, Bayer has set aside $4.5 billion for litigation and settlements, in addition to the $11.6 billion it had already allocated.

This move by Bayer suggests that the company is preparing to settle many cases if it receives a negative ruling from the high court. This means that there is a good chance that mass tort cases involving the company will be resolved within the next few months.

At the same time, an adverse ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court could also spark a new wave of lawsuits, particularly in California. Once one case has succeeded, other plaintiffs can use that case as a roadmap for winning a Roundup case against Bayer.

Mixed Signals from Bayer

Despite the likelihood of an adverse ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, Bayer continues to stand by the product it has produced. Bayer points to product clearance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and guidance from the EPA that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.

However, while Bayer intends to continue marketing and selling Roundup to professional farmers, it also has plans to remove glyphosate from weedkillers sold to non-professional gardeners. Glyphosates will be replaced with other active ingredients that aren’t currently alleged to be dangerous. 

This is a conservative decision that seems to acknowledge the possibility that Roundup might be more dangerous than has been scientifically proven and should limit any future liability for Bayer.

Conversely, Bayer is not giving ground on labeling requirements. The company insists that EPA approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act preempts all state laws and is all the warning it needs to give for its product. Any alleged risk is contradicted by scientific consensus, it argues.

What this Means for Law Firms

The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is pivotal in thousands of Roundup lawsuits. If the court rules in favor of Bayer, the case will be dismissed, and Bayer will likely refuse to settle with most, if not all, of the current litigants. Only cases where the facts are significantly different are likely to continue.

However, if the high court decides for Hardeman, Bayer will probably elect to settle on the majority of pending cases. This could mean billions of dollars for individuals who used Roundup and have been diagnosed with cancer.

If your clients had regular exposure to Roundup in the past and have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, now is the time to act. Regardless of the decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court, filing a lawsuit will probably be harder after the decision is made. Either the barrier to success will increase or your lawsuit will be delayed as thousands of more lawsuits are filed.

Don’t wait until the ruling is made. Contact the mass tort specialists at Case Works today to learn more about how your law firm can have superior case management support for a Roundup lawsuit against Bayer.