A spokesperson for Bayer said the decision by the San Francisco-based court to reduce the amount of punitive damages which it was ordered to pay marked a "step in the right direction". The Leverkusen-based company insisted, however, that the revised verdict still ran contrary to evidence produced during the judicial proceedings.
In a court document released early on Tuesday (CET), Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos said she had lowered the total compensation for plaintiff Dewayne "Lee" Johnson from 289 million U.S. dollars to 78 million dollars. Nevertheless, Ramos Bolanos rejected calls from Bayer to re-open the case and re-affirmed a previous verdict by a San Francisco district court back in August that products sold by the Bayer subsidiary Monsanto were carcinogenic and that the producer consciously decided not to provide consumers with an appropriate warning about the risks.
Bayer only recently finalized its acquisition of Monsanto, but must now contend with 8,700 ongoing lawsuits in the United States alone which have been filed due to illnesses which were allegedly caused by glyphosate-based herbicides marketed by the St. Louis-based subsidiary. "Roundup", one of the Monsanto herbicides in question, is the world's most popular weed killer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) designated "Roundup" as "probably carcinogenic" in 2015. However, Monsanto and Bayer have repeatedly drawn attention to "more than 800 scientific studies, the U.S. environmental agency EPA, national health institutes and global regulators" which the companies claim have all reached the conclusion that glyphosate is safe.
The case of Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who said he developed blood cancer due to his professional exposure to Monsanto weed killers, has been closely watched as it could set a potential legal precedent in the dispute.
A key factor which will now determine how the San Francisco court case progresses is whether Johnson accepts the reduced compensation prior to a legal deadline on Dec. 7 or chooses to file an appeal himself.