A California judge will slash a $2 billion judgment against Bayer AG, which had been awarded to a couple who both developed cancer after decades of using Roundup to kill weeds.
The damages award announced in May marked the largest to date in the litany of lawsuits tying the top-selling herbicide to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
But in a tentative ruling late Thursday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith said the $2 billion exceeded legal precedent and that she was considering an award closer to $250 million.
If the parties can’t agree on a new amount during a Friday hearing, the case would go to a retrial.
“The court’s tentative order proposes changes in the damage awards, which would be a step in the right direction,” Bayer said in a statement to Reuters. “Bayer will wait for a final order on the post-trial motions before commenting in further detail.”
A reduction in damages will do little to alleviate the legal crisis for Bayer, which is known for such pharmacy aisle products as aspirin and Alka-Seltzer.
When it acquired Monsanto for $63 billion in June to create the world’s largest seed and agrochemical company, it also inherited the company’s Roundup brand and a mountain of lawsuits. More than 13,000 have been filed in the United States.
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Bayer categorically denies Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, cause cancer, and maintains that both are safe for human use.