Q&A – Round Up $2 Billion Judgement

Today’s entry - I understand we are in a litigious society, but how can we rationalize giving a 2-billion-dollar settlement to a couple who use a weed control product for decades?

While they may not have been adequately warned of the risk, they must have known there were some risks. After all, the product is formulated to kill. Perhaps we could justify $2 Billion as a class action across thousands of individuals? But I will never be able to figure out how that can be rewarded to two individuals, one billion each. Chemical Companies and Pharmaceutical Companies will lose their motivation to be innovative if the punishment for “side effects” is this severe.  

The benefits do need to outweigh the risks, and the risks need to be well communicated, but we cannot move to a zero-risk society without giving up much of our standard of living. I am afraid this is the path we are on unless this settlement gets overturned, or at the very least significantly reduced.

Bottom Line: The $2 billion-dollar Roundup lawsuit award. Leave it to California, right? I’ll be more than upset if Bayer is eventually sued and regulated out of being able to provide an excellent product that works. I’m with you. The warnings on the product are many and what do you think the risk would be with a product that’s designed to kill weeds? Common sense and our legal system don’t always go hand-in-hand. 

The $2 billion verdict by the jury is under appeal and will almost certainly be dramatically reduced. But frankly, that shouldn’t be necessary. My thought on this or any other jury award is straight forward. We should have a federally defined value of human life. It should be indexed to inflation and life expectancy, so it automatically adjusts annually. If one’s life is ended, impaired and/or shortened the specific amount of money should be paid to the victims based on that criteria. This achieves several objectives. It guards against judgments that are either arbitrarily low or high. Takes subjectivity out of the process and provides clarity for insurance companies as well. Also, it could dramatically help reduce the cost of many insurance policies.

Trial attorney’s fight hard against reform like what I’m proposing out of self-interest. You’ll hear the argument, “how can you put a value on life”? First, if you cared about the unborn, you might have more credibility on life-related topics. Second, that's exactly what you’re asking a judge and jury to do. You’re just hoping for the $2 billion payday to roll in from a jury that gets carried away. 

I’m hopeful that the day will come when a version of the reform I described takes place. I’m also hopeful that great products that work well won’t be sued out of existence. I say we just disclaimer every product up with something that says using it can kill you and get on with living our lives free of nonsense from the legal system. 

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