The California Superior Court will likely reduce the amount of punitive damages in a $2 billion verdict against Bayer AG, according to attorney Brian Kabateck of Kabateck LLP. | pexels.com
OAKLAND – Last month, a judge on the Alameda County Superior Court reduced the amount of punitive damages in a $2 billion verdict against Bayer AG.
The company asked the court to reverse the verdict in June after the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs' allegations that Roundup weed killer caused their cancer. Judge Winifred Smith reduced the award to plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod to $86.7 million in late July.
Attorney Brian Kabateck of Kabateck LLP in Los Angeles initially predicted that it would be very difficult for the plaintiffs to keep the entire $2 billion.
Brian S. Kabateck | Kabateck LLP
“The $2 billion dollars in punitive damages probably has some problems with constitutional infirmity or violated due process in the United States Supreme Court and California Supreme Court,” Kabateck said.
Kabateck said it’s uncommon to see billion-dollar-plus punitive damages, but it’s not unheard of.
“You see more of this with behavior that jurors tend to believe is particularly egregious corporate abuse,” Kabateck said.
In some cases, Kabateck said plaintiffs make the mistake of being greedy and asking for too much money.
In cases where plaintiffs are seriously harmed by corporate conduct, Kabateck said jurors today tend to punish corporations more severely than before.
He added that severe punishments have also been handed recently to companies such as Johnson & Johnson, which faced a billion-dollar-plus settlement in talc litigation cases, and Wells Fargo also faced another major lawsuit recently in a case involving phony accounts.
“With that kind of high-profile corporate abuse, I think jurors today smell out and find ways to punish those kinds of corporate acts,” Kabateck said.
In today’s political climate, Kabateck said people feel powerless against corporations because politicians are creating a distrust between the wealthy and ordinary people.
“I think that plays out in the courtroom when you see verdicts like this,” Kabateck said.
For corporations to protect themselves against punitive damages, Kabateck said the best thing to do is to be transparent. Kabateck said corporations can protect themselves in the first place by making full disclosures about what's going on.