Upheaval in the chemicals industry
A consumer and regulatory backlash threatens old business models
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,
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