Philadelphia Jury Hands Down Historic $2.25 Billion Verdict Against Bayer in Roundup Cancer Case

Philadelphia, PA – In a significant blow to Bayer, a Philadelphia jury recently awarded $2.25 billion in damages in a lawsuit connecting the company’s Roundup weed killer to a cable technician’s blood cancer. The verdict is the largest yet in the ongoing legal battle surrounding Monsanto’s popular herbicide. Bayer, the corporate parent of Monsanto, had reserved over $10 billion last year to settle approximately 125,000 cases, many of which were consolidated in California. However, the tide began to turn when juries started awarding nine- and ten-figure sums to plaintiffs diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Attorney Tom Kline, who represented the Philadelphia plaintiff alongside co-counsel Jason Itkin, stated that the scientific literature has increasingly turned against Monsanto over the past seven years. While Bayer maintains that Roundup is safe, the company has reformulated the version sold to consumers to remove the pesticide glyphosate. Thousands of cases are still pending, including one in Delaware concerning the cancer-related death of a South Carolina groundskeeper.

Bayer intends to continue defending its product, emphasizing scientific evidence and the support of regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a statement, the Berlin-based company asserted its commitment to applying the overwhelming weight of scientific research in Roundup-related cases. Kline argued that Bayer knowingly ignored health risks associated with glyphosate to keep Roundup on the market, failing to adequately warn consumers about necessary safety precautions. Kline and Itkin secured a $175 million verdict in another Roundup case in Philadelphia last year.

John McKivison, the plaintiff in the latest case, informed the jury that he had used Roundup for two decades at various locations, including his workplace, his own property, and volunteer sites. Despite his ongoing remission, McKivison expressed concerns about a relapse and the emotional toll it takes on him. The jury awarded him $250 million in actual damages and, strikingly, penciled in an additional “2 billion dollars” for punitive damages.

Bayer recently filed a 174-page post-trial motion contesting the jury award, labeling it “excessive,” and criticizing the ground rules in Philadelphia courts as unfair. The company asserts that the Philadelphia plaintiff did not incur hundreds of millions of dollars in actual losses, a core component of the verdict. Additionally, Bayer continues to challenge the assertion that glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma, citing studies that suggest similar rates of occurrence in Roundup users and the general population.

The escalation of Roundup lawsuits began in 2015 after a branch of the World Health Organization expressed concerns about glyphosate, deeming it “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The EPA maintains that glyphosate does not pose an “unreasonable risk.” However, a U.S. appeals court in California has ordered the agency to review its 2020 finding. Meanwhile, Bayer hopes to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court that the EPA’s approval should invalidate state court claims against Roundup.

Although Bayer aims to reduce the award granted to McKivison, citing previous instances of verdict reductions, Philadelphia is known for its history of large jury awards. The city has often topped the list of “judicial hellholes” compiled by the ATR Foundation, a tort reform group. Lawyer Tom Kline contends that the jury pool in Philadelphia is evolving alongside the city’s changing demographics, with an increasing number of young professionals settling in the area. He noted that half of the 12 jurors in this particular case had college education, while some even held graduate degrees. For a finding of liability against Bayer, ten of the jurors had to agree that Roundup was more likely than not a cause of McKivison’s cancer.

In 2018, Bayer acquired Monsanto for $63 billion, but the company has since seen its share price decline significantly.