- An Alameda County jury awarded a Livermore couple a combined $2.055 billion in damages against Monsanto Monday, a decision which attorneys for the couple say clearly shows that the jury found the company's roundup weed killer caused the couple's cancer.
The jury came to its verdict yesterday, Monday, May 13, and according to Reuters, the case is the largest USA jury verdict to date against the company in litigation over the chemical. In the first, school groundskeeper Dewayne "Lee" Johnson was ultimately awarded $78.5 million.
The jury agreed, awarding the couple $1 billion each in punitive damages for a total of $2 billion.
According to Monday's ruling, Roundup weed killer was liable for causing cancer, while USA agrochemical firm Monsanto, acquired by Bayer last June, failed to inform consumers about the potential risks.
Bayer announced last month that more than 13,000 lawsuits related to the weedkiller had been launched in the US.
Bayer said it plans to appeal Monday's verdict. A spokesman called the jury's decision "excessive and unjustifiable".
"We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illness known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodkin's lymphoma (NHL)", the company said.
However, Monsanto has also faced accusations that it benefited from a cosy relationship with EPA officials and that it interfered with supposedly independent scientific reviews that concluded Roundup is safe. The Pilliods both have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It insists the glyphosate-based product is not linked to cancer. The verdict puts the onus on Bayer to alter its defense course and consider a settlement: litigation concerns have eroded Bayer's value by more than 40 per cent since the deal was sealed in June. He said judges rarely allow punitive damages to exceed four times actual damages awarded.
The Pilliods allege the regular use of Roundup on their property between 1975 and 2011 caused them to develop cancers of the lymph system. Berninger said he "firmly believes that other countries in Europe will be affected".
In addition to the Hardeman and Pilliod cases, a jury in San Francisco a year ago 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). Bayer denies those allegations.
The company noted that none of the California verdicts has been considered by an appeals court and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers the weed killer safe.