A French court has ruled that US agrochemical firm Monsanto, currently owned by German drug company Bayer, was liable for the sickness of a farmer who inhaled fumes from a weed killer made by the company.
The 55-year-old cereal farmer Paul Francois said he has suffered neurological damage, including memory loss, fainting and headaches, after accidentally inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004 while working on his farm. He accused the company of not giving sufficient safety warnings.
“Mr Francois justifiably concludes that the product, due to its inadequate labeling that did not respect applicable regulations, did not offer the level of safety he could legitimately expect,” the court said in its ruling.
Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical company that acquired Monsanto last year, confirmed Thursday’s ruling. It said that was considering its legal options, including an appeal.
“We are currently reviewing the decision of the court,” the company’s spokeswoman told the BBC.
The court in Lyon rejected Monsanto’s appeal on Tuesday but did not rule on how much it might have to pay. The compensation will be determined in a separate ruling. Meanwhile, Monsanto was ordered to immediately pay €50,000 for Francois’s legal fees. The farmer is seeking about €1 million ($1.1 million) in damages.
Francois has fought a decade-long legal battle against the firm. He had won rulings against Monsanto in 2012 and 2015 before France’s top court overturned the decisions and ordered the new hearing in Lyon.
“We are all happy to have won but it came at a heavy price,” Francois told reporters in Paris, adding: “It’s a big sigh of relief. It’s been 12 years of fighting, 12 years during which I had to put my whole life on hold.”
His lawyer Francois Lafforgue described the initial ruling as a “historic decision.” He said it was the first time a herbicide maker was “found guilty of such a poisoning.”
Lasso has been banned in France since 2007 and had already been withdrawn in some other countries.
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