Upheaval in the chemicals industry

AMERICAN JURIES are well known for the generosity of their awards in civil cases. In 2002 a Californian jury fined Philip Morris, a tobacco company, a whopping $28bn for causing a heavy smoker’s cancer, only for the amount to be slashed to $28m by a judge on appeal. So Bayer, a German chemicals giant, told shareholders not to worry when a Californian jury in August ruled that Monsanto, an American firm it bought two months before, had to pay $289m to Dewayne Johnson, a former school caretaker. Mr Johnson alleged that Roundup, a glyphosate-based weedkiller, had caused his terminal cancer. The jury made a judgment based on “junk science”, Monsanto said. It would surely be overturned on appeal.

Last month a judge reaffirmed the verdict; the damages were trimmed, but to a still-hefty $78.5m. With Bayer’s admission on November 13th that the number of similar lawsuits had reached 9,300, it is clear that the bill for compensation could reach tens of billions of dollars.

Bayer still denies any link...



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