A California jury on Monday awarded more than $2 billion to a couple who claimed Bayer AG's glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer caused their cancer, in the largest United States jury verdict to date against the company in litigation over the chemical.
"We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma", Bayer said in the statement.
Alva Pilliod, 76, and Alberta Pilliod, 74, were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2011 and 2015.
In the first two cases, a San Francisco Superior Court jury previous year awarded former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson of Vallejo $289 million, later reduced by the trial judge to $78 million. Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate that there are tens of thousands of similar cases against Roundup pending in courts around the country.
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group said "The cloud hanging over Bayer will only grow bigger and darker, as more juries hear how Monsanto manipulated its own research, colluded with regulators and intimidated scientists to keep secret the cancer risks from glyphosate".
"By now, most Bayer executives, its board and shareholders must all be questioning the decision to acquire Monsanto and its mounting liability over its cancer-causing weedkiller", Cook said.
The jury also unanimously found that Monsanto Co. - the company that makes Roundup and was purchased by Bayern AG past year - should be punished for warning to tell customers that the herbicide was risky.
The company quickly responded saying it was "disappointed with the jury's decision and will appeal the verdict in this case".
Alberta Pilliod, 76, said after the verdict that she and her husband, Alva, have each been battling cancer for the last nine years. The verdict comes about a month and a half after a jury awarded $80 million to another person, Edwin Hardeman, who has cancer.
Under a push to divest assets including its animal health division, Bayer late on Monday said it had agreed to sell US sun care brand Coppertone to Nivea owner Beiersdorf, for $550 million.
That figure, which consists of $3 billion in punitive damages and $79 million in compensatory ones, is all but certain to be reduced by the trial judge or on appeal-University of California, Hastings School of Law professor David Levine told the Associated Press there is "There is zero chance it will stand".
The Environmental Protection Agency's official position is that "there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen", with the EPA reiterating this stance at the end of April. The punitive damages awarded Monday are 36 times the actual damages.
Bayer's share price has lost half its value since it reached s 52-week high of $32.80 a share.
However, Monsanto has also faced accusations that it benefited from a cosy relationship with EPA officials and that it interfered with supposedly independent scientific reviews that concluded Roundup is safe.