Skip to main content

Originally published on Law360 by Emily Field

Law360 (August 22, 2022, 6:32 PM EDT) — An Arkansas state judge on Friday ordered Bayer AG CEOWerner Baumann to be deposed about the cancer risks of its Monsanto unit’s Roundup weedkiller in asuit brought by an agricultural worker, apparently the first time the executive has been ordered totestify in litigation over the herbicide.

Circuit Judge Robert Gibson said that as the head of Bayer, no one knows better about what thecompany is doing than Baumann and it would be shocking if he didn’t have any unique or specializedknowledge. Bayer is facing roughly 138,000 suits over Roundup, including the instant suit filed byCornelius Kilgore and Labommie Kilgore alleging that years of using the weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Further, the plaintiffs have already agreed to go to Germany,” Judge Gibson said. “Thus, there isvery little burden for Mr. Baumann to take one day to be deposed on what may be the biggest issuehis organization is facing.”

A Bayer spokesperson told Law360 on Monday that it respectfully disagrees with the judge’s orderand is assessing its legal options.

“Numerous company officials with relevant knowledge of scientific and regulatory issues already havetestified in the nationwide Roundup litigation,” the spokesman said. “Mr. Baumann is not an expert inscience, government regulation or the U.S. legal system and does not possess unique knowledgerelevant to this case.”

Shortly after Bayer’s $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto in 2018, the company lost its first trial overRoundup when a California state jury found that the weedkiller caused a former schoolgroundskeeper’s cancer, resulting in a $20.6 million award. Bayer began planning the acquisition in2016, after Baumann became CEO.

In the litigation over Roundup, Monsanto has argued that warnings about glyphosate, Roundup’sactive ingredient, are barred by federal law because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hasclassified the chemical as not a likely carcinogen and approved the label. In June 2020, Bayer agreedto a $11 billion settlement deal, which it said covered all claims with about 75% complete, and anallowance for the rest. Bayer has also won four trials against it.

In the instant case, the Kilgores filed suit in October 2021 in Drew County Circuit Court. Kilgore saidin the complaint that he had worked in agricultural and maintenance landscaping for more than twodecades in various positions.He regularly came into contact with Roundup, both at work and in maintaining his and family’sproperties, according to the suit. He was diagnosed with cancer at age 43 in November 2018,unaware of the alleged link between Roundup and cancer, the suit said.

“With nothing in his personal or family history that would suggest an NHL diagnosis, especially at hisyoung age, Mr. Kilgore was at a loss as to what could have caused his cancer,” the suit said. “It wasonly after his diagnosis that Mr. Kilgore learned that Roundup products were to blame for his injuries— a fact that Monsanto was well aware of.

“Kilgore said he has exhausted all of his medical leave and is still being treated for cancer, so he has toarrange his treatments around his work schedule. Even though his treatment and health makes manual labor all but impossible, he cannot stop working because he can’t afford to lose medicalinsurance, in addition to a family that depends upon his income, according to the suit.

“Our clients deserve answers from Werner Baumann and Bayer,” said Kilgore’s counsel Bart Rankin ofForrest Weldon Law Group LLP. “The court’s decision is a positive step forward in the pursuit of justicefor individuals suffering from egregious harm because of Monsanto and Bayer’s actions.”

The Kilgores are represented by Bart Rankin, Jay Utley, Joanna Raines McKinney and JoshuaRichardson of Forrest Weldon Law Group LLP, James Onder, Mark Berns and W. Wylie Blair of OnderLaw LLC, and McAlan Duncan and Matthew Stubbs of Duncan Stubbs PLLC.

Bayer is represented by Lyn Pruitt and David Koehler of DLA Piper LLP, Gregory Chernack ofHollingsworth LLP, Rakesh Kilaru of Wilkinson Stekloff and Hani Hashem of The Hashem Law Firm PLC.

The case is Kilgore v. Monsanto, case number 22CV-21-138 in the Circuit Court of Drew County,Arkansas.

Editing by Patrick Reagan.

Update: This article was updated to include counsel information for Bayer and to clarify the settlement


Author jarrettjohnston

More posts by jarrettjohnston