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Bayer reviews weedkiller accord after court criticism

By AFP - Jul 08,2020 - Last updated at Jul 08,2020

FRANKFURT AM MAIN — German chemical giant Bayer said on Wednesday it was reviewing a plan to resolve litigation linked to claims its Roundup weedkiller caused cancer, after a US court criticised the proposed settlement.

In a statement, Bayer said the motion for court approval of the $1.25 billion (1.1 billion euro) deal had been withdrawn to “enable the parties to more comprehensively address the questions” raised by US Judge Vince Chhabria.

Bayer said last month it would pay more than $10 billion to end a wave of lawsuits that has weighed on the company since it bought the US firm and Roundup-maker Monsanto in 2018.

Most of the money will go towards settling tens of thousands of existing cases in the United States, but around $1.25 billion has been earmarked to shut down future claims — and this part of the deal requires court approval.

In a blow to Bayer, judge Chhabria, who presides over a US district court in northern California, said on Monday he was “inclined to deny” Bayer’s request for approval.

He expressed concern about Bayer’s plan for a panel of scientists rather than judges to decide future cases, specifically whether a claimant’s cancer was caused by Roundup or not. 

Chhabria said it was “questionable” whether the proposed approach was “lawful” and whether it was in the “best interest” of potential claimants to join the class agreement given that US juries have so far awarded huge sums in damages to individual plaintiffs.

Bayer, which is not admitting any wrongdoing as part of the $10 billion plus settlement package, maintains that scientific studies and regulatory approvals show Roundup’s main ingredient glyphosate is safe.

But other research claims that glyphosate can cause cancer.

The landmark first Roundup case saw US jurors award school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson $289 million in damages over his terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2018. That sum was reduced on appeal to $78.5 million.

In another case, pensioner Edwin Hardeman was awarded $25 million.

Bayer on Wednesday said it “remains strongly committed” to finding a solution to potential future claims.

Its next court hearing was scheduled for July 24 but the withdrawal of the motion might shake up the calendar.

Shares in Bayer were down 0.6 per cent to 63.35 euros in afternoon trading on Frankfurt’s DAX 30 index, after shedding more than five per cent on Tuesday.

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