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Bayer Wins 1st Roundup Jury Judgment in Case of Child's Cancer

This victory provides Bayer more power as it negotiates settlements in other Roundup claims.

Chintu Das

In a California case involving a kid whose non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was blamed on the Bayer AG’s weed killer, Roundup the Company won its first trial, delivering the beleaguered stock its largest increase in two months. 

Bayer was held not responsible for the boy's cancer by a jury in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Bayer has already lost three trials in the state and said in July that it will put aside an extra $4.5 billion to deal with all claims related to the herbicide, which would be phased off of the consumer market in its present form in 2023. In San Bernardino, California, a new trial is beginning. 

The victory provides Bayer power as it negotiates settlements in hundreds of additional Roundup lawsuits across the United States. On the announcement, the shares jumped as much as 2.7 percent in Frankfurt trading, despite legal experts cautioning that it's too early to say whether the victory will tip the lawsuit tide in Bayer's favour. 

“You can't generalise too much from one case. This may prompt plaintiffs' lawyers to think this isn't a cakewalk and decide to take less money to settle cases,” said Richard Ausness, a University of Kentucky law professor who teaches about mass-tort cases.

Bayer expressed sorrow for the kid in the Los Angeles case in an emailed statement, but said that the judgment "is consistent with the views of professional regulators globally as well as the overwhelming weight of four decades of comprehensive study." One of the lawsuits that the firm lost has been appealed to the United States Supreme Court. 

Destiny Clark, who filed the case on behalf of her autistic son Ezra, said her autistic son was exposed to the weed killer because she used it often in her backyard east of Los Angeles. At trial, her lawyer, Fletch Trammell, claimed that when Roundup enters the lymphatic system, it causes genetic damage, which is the origin of all malignancies. He expressed his disappointment with the jury's decision. 

"We'll look into appeal possibilities and continue to try cases," Trammell said in an email on Tuesday. 

During the trial, Monsanto claimed that multiple studies have found Roundup to be safe, and that the key component in the herbicide, glyphosate, is not a carcinogen, as determined by the US Environmental Protection Agency. They also told jurors that Ezra's sickness could not have been caused by his minimal exposure to Roundup. 

According to Elizabeth Burch, a University of Georgia law professor who teaches product-liability law, the decision may imply that not every Roundup case will be a slam dunk.

She went on to say that a youngster who has been exposed to Roundup for a short period of time does not have the same case as a groundskeeper who has been exposed to it for years. 

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