Paul François v. Monsanto

RG 17/06027 // 15-25.651 // 19-18689
April 26, 2007
Final judgment
France, Lyon

Paul François
François Lafforgue

Civil court
Lasso, Herbicide, Alachlor, Monochlorobenzene
That Monsanto be declared as responsible for the plaintiff's health problems.
Judicial Court of Lyon, France
No description

November 7, 2022
No description

In a final judgment dated November 7, 2022, the Lyon Judicial Tribunal ordered pesticide manufacturer Bayer to pay 11,135 euros in compensation to Paul François, a farmer who suffered acute poisoning from the herbicide "Lasso", used to weed corn crops. Introduced to the French market in 1968, this pesticide produced by the American company Monsanto, which was acquired in 2018 by Bayer, was withdrawn from sale in 2007 due to its carcinogenic effects.

On April 27 2004, Paul François opens a tank used for the treatment of a self-propelled sprayer to clean it, and accidentally inhales large quantities of the product's vapors. This then has serious neuronal and respiratory consequences for the farmer's health.

On January 28 2010, Bordeaux’s Court of Appeal, confirming a previous decision rendered by the Social Security Tribunal of Angoulême dated November 3 2008, recognized Paul François’ illness as a professional illness stemming from the 2004 incident and allocated to him a 30% disability rate. Following that ruling, the farmer filed a new claim before the Lyon Judicial Tribunal with the intent to hold Monsanto liable for the prejudice resulting from the incident. In particular, he argued that the labeling information related to the product's composition, its harmful effects on the respiratory system and the precautionary measures recommended were insufficient to ensure the safety of its users.

On February 13 2012, the Lyon Judicial Tribunal ruled in favor of Paul François, sentencing Monsanto to fully compensate the farmer. Monsanto then appealed before the Lyon Court of Appeal, which confirmed the 2012 ruling. On July 7 2017, the Court of Cassation issued a decision dismissing the previous appeal and stating that the jurisdictions first seized had an obligation to examine ex officio the applicability to the dispute of the rules deriving from the regime of liability for defective products in accordance with European Directive 85/374/EEC.

The Cassation Court then referred back to the Lyon Court of Appeal. On April 11 2019, this Court, applying the liability for defective products regime, held Monsanto liable for the prejudice resulting from the 2004 incident, due to the lack of sufficient precisions on Lasso’s labeling to ensure a safe use. Ordered to pay 50, 000 euros for costs, Monsanto appealed and on October 21, 2020, was once again condemned by the French Supreme Court. The question of the quantum of compensation for damages was referred back to the trial judges.

Finally, in a judgment dated November 7 2022, the Lyon Judicial Tribunal awarded Paul François the sum of 11, 135 euros for his loss, whereas he had been claiming over a million euros. By way of comparison, Bayer's sales in France in 2021 amounted to 1,292 million euros. Nevertheless, for the first time, the French justice has effectively recognized the responsibility of a pesticide manufacturer for a product defect that led to the poisoning of a farmer.