Bayer May Face Next Roundup Cancer Trial Sooner Than Planned

(Bloomberg) -- Bayer AG isn’t counting on another trial over its Roundup herbicide until February, but an elderly couple who say exposure to the weed killer gave them cancer has other ideas. 

Among some 8,700 people who blame their cancer on Bayer’s recently acquired Monsanto unit, the couple is asking to go to the front of the line to present their case to a jury in December “before they die.”

The husband and wife in their 70s are invoking the same California law -- which gives scheduling preference to people who are terminally ill -- that allowed a school groundskeeper diagnosed with just months to live to stage the first Roundup trial this summer, resulting in a $289 million verdict.

Bayer Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann sought to assure assure investors in a Sept. 5 conference call that the merger with Monsanto will beef up the companies’ legal firepower to defeat the sprawling litigation. He implied there would be more time to strategize by noting that trials set for October and January were being put off.

“A number of trials are currently scheduled beginning in February 2019, but may be subject to change,” Bauman said during the call. “So the bottom line -- there is no further case that is going to be tried for the remainder of the year.”

Monsanto is fighting to postpone the Pilliod couple’s trial in state court in Oakland, California, arguing that they haven’t met the requirements for expedited scheduling.

A spokesman for Monsanto didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the couple’s request for an expedited trial.

Separately, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco, who is handling all the Roundup cases in federal court, said he wants to schedule the first four trials for the spring of 2019.

The Oakland case is Pilliod v. Monsanto Company, RG17862702, California Superior Court for the County of Alameda. The federal case is In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2741, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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