A California jury found unanimously today that Monsanto is liable for failing to provide adequate warnings that its bestselling Roundup weedkiller could cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHA) and other cancers. The federal jury awarded a California man more than $80 million, and delivered a devastating blow to Monsanto and its parent company Bayer AG, in the first bellwether trial. (Law360.com)
After only a day of deliberations, the jury of five women and one man determined that Monsanto was liable for a negligence claim, a design defect claim and a failure to warn claim. The jury decided to award Ed Hardeman, 70, $200,967 in economic damages, $5 million in future and past noneconomic damages, and a stunning $75 million in punitive damages. (Ewg.org)
Verdict Marks Conclusion of 30 Day, 2-Part Trial
The huge verdict in favor of the plaintiff Hardeman marks the end of a month-long, two-part federal trial over allegations that decades of Hardeman using Roundup on his Santa Rosa, California property led to his NHA. The first part of the weedkiller trial concluded March 19. The jury decided Roundup was a major factor in causing his cancer. This sent the case into the second phase to determine what the liability and damages would be.
During part two, the jury listened to evidence that from 1980 to 2012, Monsanto had knowledge of five epidemiological studies, seven studies involving animals, three oxidative stress studies and 14 genotoxicity clinical studies that showed a connection between Roundup and cancer. Hardeman’s attorney, Jennifer Ann Moore, stated during closing arguments that despite the overwhelming clinical evidence, Monsanto never provided any warnings to consumers. The company also declined to do its own long term research on the cancer dangers of Roundup.
Monsanto ‘Manipulated the Science’ – Plaintiff’s Attorney
Moore also made accusations against Monsanto executives, saying that they ghost-wrote several white papers in the 1990s and 2000s to allegedly mislead federal officials and regulators and consumers about the safety of Roundup. She requested the jury award punitive damages against the company for ‘manipulating the science’ and the opinion of the public for years. She pointed out that Bayer purchased Monsanto for $63 billion in June 2018, and that the company made a profit of $210 million from sales of Roundup in only one year.
Glyphosate Never Found to Cause Cancer Before – Defense Counsel
In defense of Monsanto, roundup lawsuit attorney Brian Stekloff argued that the active ingredient in the weedkiller, glyphosate, has been studied in incredible detail for decades. Until recently, no regulatory body or health organization ever determined glyphosate could cause any type of cancer, including non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Defense counsel also stated that to hand out punitive damages, the jury must believe that Monsanto’s executives and other employees committed crimes and lied about the safety of the product. But, Stekloff argued, Monsanto’s employees backed the safety profile of Roundup. They all testified that they use the popular weedkiller at home and do not use any protection.
Stekloff also said that even if Monsanto needed to provide a warning to consumers about risks of cancer, there is no convincing evidence that Hardeman even would have read the label.
But on this day, the jury took the side of the plaintiff and laid a crushing blow on Monsanto.
In response, Bayer has said that it will appeal the verdict. Their press statement noted that Bayer still stands behind Roundup and will continue to mount a strong defense.
Hardeman Case First to Go to Trial
The Santa Rosa man’s roundup cancer lawsuit was the first Roundup case to go to the trial phase, out of hundreds of related lawsuits that still are pending in the Northern District of California over allegations of cancer involving Roundup and Ranger Pro. As of January 2019, almost 700 Roundup product liability cases were consolidated in the court of US District Judge Vince Chhabria.
The next case regarding Roundup that will go to trial is Pilliod v. Monsanto. This trial will begin tomorrow in California state court in Oakland. Another bellwether trial in the federal MDL will begin May 20. But Judge Chhabria stated during a hearing in early 2019 that he will probably pause federal litigation after the verdict for Pilliod comes down. This will allow both parties to consider a settlement.
Hardeman Trial Is Second Huge Verdict Against Monsanto
The Hardeman trial and its $80 million verdict came after a California state jury slammed Monsanto last year with a $289 million verdict. It was later reduced by the judge to $78 million. In that Roundup case, former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson claimed he got NHL from spraying at least 150 gallons of Ranger Pro with little safety gear on five school campuses for many years. That verdict is in appeal.
Together, both verdicts at the federal and state levels set a very strong precedent for the thousands of other cases that are pending. There currently are at least 11,000 lawsuits the company is facing, claiming that long term exposure to glyphosate in Roundup and other products caused cancer.
In 2015, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans. But the EPA concluded that the pesticide was probably not dangerous to humans. Nonetheless, the major verdicts against Monsanto and Bayer are going to make a persuasive argument to consumers that the products are dangerous to people, and this could have a major effect on the bottom lines for both companies. (Buzzfeednews.com)
Still, products that are based upon glyphosate are still legal in the US. But several cities and communities across America are taken their own steps to ban the use of Roundup and related pesticides. Also, in 2017, California promulgated a warning about glyphosate, and added it to a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, although this decision was reversed by a state judge later.
- Monsanto Hit with $80 Million Verdict in First Federal Roundup Trial. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1143544
- Hardeman Roundup Cancer Damages. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/skbaer/hardeman-roundup-cancer-damages
- Jury Slams Monsanto For Corporate Malfeasance in Roundup Cancer Trial. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/release/second-time-8-months-bayer-monsanto-s-roundup-liable-cancer-lawsuit