When a jury awarded Edwin Hardeman $80 million in April of 2019, it was just the start of a long, arduous battle to keep the funds that were supposed to compensate him for what would be lost from his life as he fought non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury concluded that his condition was caused by sustained exposure to glyphosate; the key ingredient in Bayer’s flagship weed killer Roundup.
His attorney did not mince words in the initial stages of that battle. “A responsible company would test its product,” she said. “A responsible company would tell their customers if they knew it causes cancer.” The jury agreed. While $5.3 million of the award was compensatory, the remaining $75 million was issued punitively to punish Bayer for its role in concealing Roundup’s dangers and putting thousands of people at risk. One juror felt so strongly about Bayer’s role in Hardeman’s harm that they wrote a letter to the judge in the case asking him to let the verdict stand without reducing the amount the jury awarded.
In the end, the judge did reduce Hardeman’s award to $25 million and, as expected, Bayer filed an appeal in early 2020. The company made it clear that even though a jury found them responsible for causing a life-threatening condition for an unwitting consumer, they were going to do everything they could to ensure they faced no responsibility for his condition. In their filing, Bayer maintained that the verdict “defied regulatory findings and sound science” and argued that the case shouldn’t have ever made it to a courtroom.
A 3-judge panel for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco disagreed. Finding no fault with the judge’s decision to allow the trial to move forward, the court upheld Hardeman’s award.
The decision struck a huge blow to Bayer’s attempts to distance itself from the harm caused by Roundup and glyphosate. Well over 100,000 similar cases exist and the Hardeman case was among the initial bellwether trials in the matter. To date, Bayer has had to commit over $11 billion to Roundup settlements, including $2 billion for future Roundup cancer trials that involve people who have been exposed to their product but have not yet gotten sick.