Monsanto to pay $2 billion in weed killer cancer case: jury

Andrew Cummings
May 14, 2019

A jury in Oakland, California, has awarded a couple $2 billion in punitive damages after concluding that sustained exposure to Monsanto Co.'s popular Roundup weed killer led to their cancer diagnoses. The jury ordered the company to pay $1bn in damages to each of them, and more than $55m total in compensatory damages.

The company is facing thousands of lawsuits.

Today the jury in Alameda County Superior Court found that glyphosate, the signature ingredient in Roundup, was the cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in both Alva and Alberta Pilliod of Livermore, who have used the herbicide since the 1970s.

In March, after the second jury found that Roundup caused cancer, Bayer said that more than 800 studies submitted to EPA, European and other regulators "confirms that these products are safe when used as directed", including a 2018 independent National Cancer Institute-supported long-term study that "found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer".

The jury's verdict is the third such courtroom loss for Monsanto in California since August, but a San Francisco law professor said it's likely a trial judge or appellate court will significantly reduce the punitive damage award. "Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda". They testified they sprayed Roundup on weeds on several properties for three decades and believed it was safe because the product labels and television advertisements did not warn of a cancer risk.

Alva suffers from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his bones that spread to his pelvis and spine. Both of them are now in remission, but their trial had been expedited due to the risk of a relapse and potentially short life expectancy.

In a statement, Bayer said it was disappointed with the jury's decision and would appeal the verdict, which it argues was at odds with a recent US Environmental Protection Agency review of glyphosate-based weed killers.

Internal documents uncovered in the trials have repeatedly shone a harsh light on Monsanto's close relationship with U.S. regulators.

Verdicts against Monsanto in the Roundup cancer litigation now stand at $2.424 billion - with 13,400 cases still pending in state and federal courts, according to Hedlund Law. The lawsuits began piling up after a key 2015 ruling by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, which said glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans".

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