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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bayer AG had hoped a new trial strategy focusing jurors on scientific evidence could stem a burgeoning tide of U.S button cufflinks. lawsuits over its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, but a second jury finding on Tuesday that the product caused cancer has narrowed the company’s options, some legal experts said. Bayer shares tumbled more than 12 percent on Wednesday after a unanimous jury in San Francisco federal court found Roundup to be a “substantial factor” in causing California resident Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma..
The jury decision was a blow to Bayer after the judge in the Hardeman case, at the company’s request, had split the trial, severely limiting evidence plaintiffs could present in the first phase button cufflinks. Tuesday’s defeat on terms considered advantageous to Bayer sets up the second phase to be even tougher and limits the grounds on which the company could appeal any final verdict, the experts said. “The fact that Bayer lost this trial despite it being set up in the most favorable way for them is a huge setback,” said Thomas Rohback, a Connecticut-based defense lawyer..
Bayer in a statement on Tuesday said it stood behind the safety of Roundup and was confident the evidence in the second trial phase would show that Monsanto’s conduct was appropriate and the company not liable for Hardeman’s cancer. The company, which bought Monsanto last year, on Wednesday declined to comment beyond that statement button cufflinks. Tuesday’s finding did not address liability, which will be determined following the second trial phase that began on Wednesday. Bayer denies glyphosate or Roundup cause cancer. The German company faces more than 11,200 lawsuits over the popular weed killer. Last August, following the first Roundup trial, a California state court jury issued a $289 million verdict against the company..
Two weeks after that verdict, which was later reduced to $78 million and is being appealed, Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann reassured analysts that the company had a new legal strategy based on focusing jurors on the scientific evidence. “Bayer and the joint litigation team are working to ensure that, going forward, this overwhelming science will get the full consideration it deserves,” Baumann said in an Aug. 23 conference call. There is a lot at stake for Bayer, which acquired Roundup maker Monsanto last year for $63 billion. Though Bayer does not break out sales figures for Roundup, glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weed killer, and Roundup is the leading brand button cufflinks.
Bayer’s new strategy was focused on keeping out plaintiffs’ allegations that the company improperly influenced scientists, regulators and the public about the safety of Roundup. Bayer has denied it acted inappropriately and said in public statements following the August verdict that it thought the jury was inflamed by the claims of corporate misconduct. Vince Chhabria, the San Francisco federal judge overseeing the Hardeman case, agreed with the company’s argument that such evidence was a “distraction” from the scientific question of whether glyphosate causes cancer. He agreed to split the trial in a January order button cufflinks.