California jury awards couple $2 billion in Monsanto/Bayer Roundup cancer trial

Daniel Fowler
Мая 14, 2019

The jury awarded each of them $1bn in punitive damages as well as a total of $55m in compensatory damages.

It's the third consecutive verdict against the company over the product and the largest to date.

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group said "The cloud hanging over Bayer will only grow bigger and darker, as more juries hear how Monsanto manipulated its own research, colluded with regulators and intimidated scientists to keep secret the cancer risks from glyphosate".

"The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe", said their counsel, Brent Wisner. 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". They were also awarded $55 million in compensatory damages.

A federal jury in San Francisco ordered the weed killer maker in March to pay a Sonoma County man $80 million.

And, in August 2018, another California jury awarded groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson - the first to take on Monsanto - $289 million in state court, after a jury found Roundup caused his cancer.

Alva and Alberta Pilliod claimed they used Roundup for more than 30 years to landscape their home and other properties. A third California jury has awarded a multimillion-dollar court judgment against the herbicide.

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"Mounting evidence suggests that exposure to Monsanto's Roundup weed killer increases the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body's immune system", the law firm says on its website.

The jury ruled the company had acted negligently, failing to warn of the risks associated with the product. It insists that Roundup is safe to use.

A jury in San Francisco Superior Court in Oakland found the company liable after a seven-week trial - citing its active ingredient, glyphosate, as the underlying cause of the cancer. That award was later reduced to $78 million and is on appeal. 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.

But Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, who oversaw the Pilliod trial, did not allow Bayer to tell the jury about the latest EPA assessment, saying that the agency's affirmation was not based on new science, but was merely a "comment".

But Bayer now faces more than 13,400 USA lawsuits over Roundup's alleged cancer risk.

While it was a "risky move" to ask for an award of more than $1 billion, the three verdicts against Bayer show jurors are convinced by evidence against the company, said Anna Pavlik, senior counsel for special situations at United First Partners in NY. People who are not farm workers or groundskeepers are being exposed to the cancer-causing chemical.

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