Supreme Court rejects appeal from Roundup maker over cancer claims

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand a multimillion-dollar verdict against the manufacturer of the popular weed killer Roundup for failing to warn of cancer risks.

The decision by the justices not to intervene has implications for thousands of similar lawsuits against the company Bayer. The Biden administration had urged the court to deny the company’s request, a departure from the Trump administration’s position.

In a statement Tuesday, the company said, it disagrees with the court’s decision not to take its appeal and “is confident that the extensive body of science and consistently favorable views of leading regulatory bodies worldwide provide a strong foundation on which it can successfully defend Roundup in court when necessary.”

The case was brought by Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed in 2015 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He sued the company, alleging that his use of Roundup for more than two decades had caused his cancer. He said the company had failed to warn of the cancer risks associated with the active ingredient glyphosate.

Since 1985, the ingredient has been classified as a “possible human carcinogen,” but the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly concluded that it is unlikely to cause cancer in humans. California’s labeling laws are more stringent, and after a 2015 finding from an international research group, required a warning label for glyphosate-based pesticides.

An appeals court upheld a jury’s $25 million verdict and finding that Hardeman’s exposure to Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing his cancer and that the company had failed to warn of the risks.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said federal law does not preempt the company’s duty to include a cancer warning on its label. The court said that a pesticide can be “misbranded” even if the EPA has approved its label and that a company can comply with both federal and state labeling requirements.

The company’s lawyers urged the Supreme Court to reverse and pointed to previous rulings intended to ensure “nationwide uniformity of pesticide labeling.” California and potentially 49 other states should not be able to “marginalize” EPA’s statements that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer, they said.

The company noted that Hardeman stopped using Roundup in 2012, before the California label requirement.

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