Published: Tue, May 14, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Jury returns $2 billion verdict against Monsanto for couple with cancer

Jury returns $2 billion verdict against Monsanto for couple with cancer

A California couple was awarded more than $2 billion in damages on Monday after a jury agreed that the Roundup weed killer they had been using for more than three decades had caused them to get cancer.

In addition to the Hardeman and Pilliod cases, a jury in San Francisco previous year initially awarded a man, Dewayne Johnson, $289 million in a case related to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and glyphosate-based products, but the judge later slashed the punitive damages levied against Bayer/Monsanto in that case to $39 million, down from $250 million (and left another $39 million in compensatory damages intact).

"The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances", the company said.

The jury's decision "conflicts directly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's interim registration review decision released just last month, the consensus among leading health regulators worldwide that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic", Bayer said in a statement.

A federal jury in San Francisco previously ordered the weed killer maker to pay a man $115 million and a San Francisco jury in August awarded $416 million to a former greenskeeper, though a judge later reduced it.

It comes after a landmark court ruling in the United States saw Monsanto ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for causing a man's cancer.

Alva Pilliod and wife Alberta of Livermore, both in their 70s, were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

The punitive damages, according to the verdict, were for "malice, oppression or fraud" on Monsanto's part, defined in the jury instructions as including willful and knowing disregard for human safety. And the company insists there is no link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins's lymphoma.

The jury ruled the company had acted negligently, failing to warn of the risks associated with the product. Both are in remission but testified about lasting damage from the cancer.

It is the third trial since August 2018 in which a jury found that glyphosate caused cancer. In the first, school groundskeeper Dewayne "Lee" Johnson was ultimately awarded $78.5 million. Bayer is appealing each of these verdicts.

Bayer denied the allegations.

Monsanto, the maker of Roundup acquired by Bayer last June, is the named defendant in similar US lawsuits filed by at least 13,400 plaintiffs. Alberta was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma brain cancer in 2015.

A 2017 Reuters investigatihere found that the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer had dismissed and edited out "non-carcinogenic" findings that were at odds with its final conclusion that the chemical probably causes cancer. The EPA on May 1 reaffirmed its earlier findings, saying glyphosate did not pose a risk to public health.

Bayer Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann faces increased shareholder pressure over the litigation it inherited from Monsanto as investors have been closely watching developments in the costly Roundup lawsuits.

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