SYDNEY (Reuters) - Lawyers of an Australian gardener on Tuesday said they had filed a lawsuit against Bayer AG agricultural chemicals unit Monsanto for severe harm caused by an ingredient used in its weed killer Roundup, the first such case in the country.
The lawsuit follows court rulings in the United States linking Roundup's main ingredient, glyphosate, to cancer, which has already taken tens of billions of euros off Bayer's market value.
In court documents seen by Reuters filed in the Australian state of Victoria on Monday, self-employed Michael Ogalirolo, 54, said he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma - a type of leukemia - after using Monsanto's Roundup for more than 20 years.
"Roundup products are dangerous to human health and unfit to be marketed and sold in commerce, particularly without proper warnings and directions," the writ filed by Carbone Lawyers says.
Bayer said it was aware of reports regarding a statement of claim about glyphosate but had not received a writ.
"We have great sympathy for any individual with cancer, but the extensive body of science on glyphosate-based herbicides over four decades supports the conclusion that Roundup does not cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," it said in a statement.
Ogalirolo is seeking damages from the company for endangering his life, loss of income, cost of care, as well as "punishing the company for supplying a product that is not safe", Ogalirolo's lawyer, Tony Carbone, told Reuters.
It will be the first action of its kind in Australia, he said.
For Bayer - inventor of Aspirin and maker of stroke prevention drug Xarelto and Yasmin birth control pills – lawsuits in the United States are the biggest headache with more than 13,400 plaintiffs bringing claims over the herbicide's alleged cancer risk.
The group's market value has fallen below what Bayer paid for Monsanto after shedding more than 40 percent since the first U.S. jury verdict last August.
A California couple were awarded more than $2 billion last month in the largest U.S. jury penalty over allegations its Roundup weed killer causes cancer, though the punitive damages are expected to be reduced.
Shares of Australia's Nufarm dropped to a more than five-year low this week after the crop protection group said that it was exposed to risk of litigation because it was a supplier of glyphosate-based herbicides.
(Reporting by Paulina Duran and Patricia weiss; Editing by Robert Birsel)