A unanimous California jury has found Monsanto/Bayer liable for failing to warn that its weed killer, Roundup, could cause cancer. The federal jury awarded the plaintiff, Ed Hardeman, $80 million in the first bellwether trial of this vastly growing litigation, striking a blow to Monsanto and opening the door for thousands of individuals whose lives have been adversely affected by the development of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as a result of Roundup usage. Specifically, the jury awarded Hardeman $200,967 in economic damages, approximately $5 million in future and past noneconomic damages, and $75 million in punitive damages.
This was a bifurcated trial in which the jury heard a causation phase and a secondary damages phase. The causation phase of the trial ended on March 19 when the jury concluded that Roundup was a substantial factor in causing Hardeman’s cancer, sending the dispute into a second phase to determine liability and damages. During the damages phase, the jury heard evidence that between 1980 and 2012, Monsanto was aware of five epidemiological studies, seven animal studies, three oxidative stress studies and 14 genotoxicity studies that linked its Roundup products to cancer. Mr. Hardeman’s lawyers argued that despite the studies, Monsanto never warned consumers and refused to conduct its own long-term research.
Monsanto executives were also accused of “ghostwriting” multiple academic articles in the 1990s and 2000s, allegedly in an effort to mislead federal regulators and the public about the safety of Roundup. Mr. Hardeman’s attorneys asked the jury to award punitive damages against Monsanto for “manipulating the science” and public opinion for years, pointing out that Bayer bought Monsanto for $63 billion in June, and Monsanto made $210 million from Roundup sales in one year alone.
This is not the first time that a jury has found Monsanto liable for the cancer-causing propensities of Roundup. In August 2018, a jury awarded a California man $78 million in California state court finding that Monsanto’s Roundup was a substantial factor in the Plaintiff’s development of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In that case, a former school groundskeeper alleged that his years-long usage of Roundup on school property, with minimal protective gear, caused his development of NHL. Roundup trials continue to be placed on the docket across the country. A second bellwether trial is scheduled to begin in late May.
The day after a federal jury in California awarded a Plaintiff with $80 million finding that Monsanto failed to warn that Roundup could cause cancer, another California jury, this time in state court, heard opening statements alleging that decades of spraying Roundup caused a married couple’s aggressive Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Plaintiff’s counsel, representing a couple in their 70s, maintained that between their four owned properties, the Plaintiffs sprayed an estimated 1,500 gallons of Roundup for about 35 years before they stopped in 2017 only after seeing commercial saying it could cause cancer. Before 2017 the Plaintiffs, like so many other people across the country, thought the herbicide was harmless.
Not only did the Plaintiffs both develop cancer because of their extensive Roundup usage, the couple both contracted the same form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which required extensive chemotherapy and treatment. Although Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a common form of cancer, it makes up only 4 percent of cancers worldwide. The development of the same kind of cancer by two closely connected individuals is so unusual that it made their doctor conclude the diseases must have been caused by something in their environment.
Just as in the trials before it, the jury heard testimony of allegations that at least two of Monsanto’s scientists ghostwrote academic papers in the early 2000s and then used those articles to persuade regulators and the public that Roundup is safe to use. Plaintiff’s counsel also said that in 1999 Monsanto ignored the findings of toxicologist Dr. James Parry, who concluded that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, could cause genetic damage and recommended they conduct further studies of it.
Even more concerning, the jury heard allegations of the “Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories scandal.” In it, Monsanto is alleged to have had a purported role in creating and promoting a cancer study on which the EPA based its initial Roundup approval rating in the 1970s. That study was later invalidated in the 1980s, yet the approval of Roundup did not change. Furthermore, the California EPA has classified that glyphosate, a central ingredient in Roundup, does cause cancer.
As part of its defense, counsel for Monsanto alleges that the Plaintiffs have been stifled with multiple long-term health problems throughout their lives and that they both have a family history of cancer, which increases their risks of getting Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Beasley Allen’s Toxic Torts section is actively investigating cases involving Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma connected to Roundup use. Contact John Tomlinson, a lawyer in the section, for more information or to discuss a possible claim.