Bayer presses for U.S. Supreme Court review of a second Roundup cancer case

The historic headquarters of German pharmaceutical and chemical maker Bayer AG is pictured in Leverkusen
The logo of Bayer AG is pictured at the facade of the historic headquarters of the German pharmaceutical and chemical maker in Leverkusen, Germany, April 27, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

(Reuters) - Bayer AG has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case claiming that its glyphosate-based weedkillers cause cancer, the second time in less than a year that the company has petitioned the high court over a jury award related to the products.

The German pharmaceutical and chemical company is appealing a California decision awarding nearly $87 million to Alberta and Alva Pilliod, who were diagnosed with cancer after spraying the weedkiller Roundup for more than three decades.

A jury initially awarded the couple more than $2 billion, but the trial judge later reduced the amount.

Bayer could face billions of dollars in damages from thousands of lawsuits alleging that Roundup causes cancer.

The company says the lawsuits should be dismissed because federal regulators consider the weedkiller safe.

The Supreme Court is also deciding whether to hear a similar appeal from Bayer seeking to overturn a $25 million award by a California court to Roundup user Edwin Hardeman, and in December asked the Biden administration for its views.

Bayer became responsible for the lawsuits when it acquired the Roundup brand as part of its $63 billion purchase of agricultural seeds and pesticides maker Monsanto in 2018.

Last year, Bayer said it would set aside $4.5 billion for weedkiller litigation if its Supreme Court appeals were unsuccessful.

In both Supreme Court petitions, Bayer argued that the plaintiffs' cancer claims went against sound science and were negated by regulatory clearance for Roundup.

The new petition raises an additional challenge, saying that it is unconstitutional to award punitive damages that far outweigh compensatory damages.

Bayer plans to replace glyphosate with other active ingredients in weedkillers for U.S. residential use. It plans to continue sales to farmers, who rely on it heavily and who according to Bayer have a negligible role in the litigation.

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