Finally, there is a small bit of good news for the crop protection marketplace from the courtrooms of the U.S. For many months now, opponents of glyphosate have been loudly touting a pair of California jury verdicts against the popular herbicide and its owner, Bayer, that ruled against the company and awarded damages in of more than $2 billion in one case and $80 million in the other. It was clear from various emails and news releases from these groups that they viewed these verdicts as “fair and deserved.”
From a legal standpoint, however, both were on shakier ground from the moment they were announced. In fact, according to a long-standing Supreme Court ruling, “punitive damages should not exceed compensatory damages by more than nine times.” In the first case, the compensatory damages were $5.27 million. In the other, they totaled $55 million (for a couple, not an individual).
Both case judges have now agreed that the punitive damages awarded in these cases were “constitutionally impermissible.” Therefore, the punitive damages in the first case have been reduced from $75 million to $20 million. In the second case, the punitive damages will end up closer to $250 million, down from $2 billion. Still, both judges are allowing the overall verdicts against Bayer to stand.
Bayer seems pleased with the reductions at this point. “The court’s tentative order proposes changes in the damage awards, which would be a step in the right direction,” said the company in a released statement. However, the company still plans to ultimately appeal both decisions, saying that the “science behind glyphosate’s safety,” which has been supported by key regulatory agencies such as the EPA, has “been ignored” in these cases.
Obviously, there’s still a long way to go before any of the fallout from these first glyphosate cases are fully known. It’s good to know, however, that legally, excessive “damage award message sending” embraced anti-modern agriculture opponents “won’t be allowed to stand up in court.”