Supreme Court won’t derail landmark Roundup cancer verdict

By Pamela King | 06/21/2022 01:38 PM EDT

Roundup bottles.

The Supreme Court has declined to get involved today in a Roundup weedkiller legal battle. Mike Mozart/Flickr

The Supreme Court today said that it would not get involved in a long-running legal battle over cancer risk from exposure to a key ingredient in the popular Roundup weedkiller.

In a short order this morning, the justices rejected Monsanto Co.’s plea to overturn a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed California resident Edwin Hardeman and others to pursue their claims that the company failed to warn users about the links between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Greenwire, Dec. 9, 2019).

Hardeman was awarded $25 million in a jury trial that is designed to serve as a test case for thousands of other similar challenges.

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“This has been a long, hard-fought journey to bring justice for Mr. Hardeman and now thousands of other cancer victims can continue to hold Monsanto accountable for its decades of corporate malfeasance,” said Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff, attorneys representing Hardeman, in a joint statement.

The 9th Circuit rejected Monsanto’s argument that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act should block litigants’ claims against Roundup and upheld the award for Hardeman, who used the weedkiller for years on his property in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bayer AG, which now owns Monsanto, said today that it “respectfully disagrees” with the Supreme Court’s decision not to grant the company’s petition, Monsanto v. Hardeman.

“While this decision brings an end to the Hardeman case, there are likely to be future cases, including Roundup cases, that present the U.S. Supreme Court with preemption questions like Hardeman and could also create a Circuit split,” Bayer said in a statement.

The company noted that there is already one such petition pending — Monsanto v. Pilliod — which the Supreme Court could grant or dispose of as soon as next week.

Bayer said it has set aside about $6.5 billion “to reasonably account for claims settlement, defense costs, judgments, and administrative expenses” associated with Roundup litigation and is preparing a resolution program for U.S. claims.

The company said it is on track to transition its glyphosate-based U.S. residential lawn and garden products to new formulations next year “exclusively to manage litigation risk in the U.S. and not because of any safety concerns.”

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. While EPA has not found a link between glyphosate and cancer, the agency under the Biden administration has said that it plans to investigate the matter further and urged the Supreme Court not to take up the case.

Today’s denial also follows a Friday ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said EPA must go back to work on its finding that glyphosate does not present “any reasonable risk to man or the environment” (Greenwire, June 17).

EPA generally does not comment on pending litigation.

Republican lawmakers have launched an investigation of the Biden administration’s support for upholding the 9th Circuit ruling, which the legislators say has the potential to exacerbate food shortages as the nation confronts supply chain issues (Greenwire, June 7).

Bayer said in its statement today that it “is strongly encouraged” by support from stakeholders in light of the federal government’s “legal reversal” in the case.

It takes the vote of four justices to agree to grant a case, and the Supreme Court rejects most petitions that come its way.

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