Biden administration asks U.S. Supreme Court to shun Bayer weedkiller appeal


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear Bayer AG’s bid to dismiss claims by customers who contend that its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer, as the company seeks to avoid potentially billions of dollars in damages.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, who represents the administration before the high court, said in a court filing that Bayer’s appeal should be rejected.

Bayer last August filed a petition asking the justices to reverse a lower court’s decision that upheld $25 million in damages awarded to California resident Edwin Hardeman, a Roundup user who blamed his cancer on the German pharmaceutical and chemical giant’s glyphosate-based weedkillers. The Supreme Court in December asked Biden’s administration to provide its views. The justices generally gives deference to the solicitor general’s conclusions.

Bayer has argued that the cancer claims over Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate go against sound science and product clearance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has upheld guidance that glyphosate is not carcinogenic and not a risk to public health when used as indicated on the label.

The lawsuits against Bayer have said the company should have warned customers of the alleged cancer risk.

Prelogar rejected Bayer’s argument that the EPA label approval under a federal law called the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act preempts the “failure to warn” claims brought under state law.

“EPA’s approval of labeling that does not warn about particular chronic risks does not by itself preempt a state-law requirement to provide such warnings,” Prelogar wrote.

The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to take up the matter is being closely watched as Bayer maneuvers to limit its legal liability in thousands of cases.

A company statement said Bayer believes it has “strong legal arguments” to support the Supreme Court taking up the case.

Bayer asked the Supreme Court to review the verdict in Hardeman’s case, which was upheld by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May. Hardeman had regularly used Roundup for 26 years at his home in northern California before being diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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