(March 28, 2019) A California jury yesterday ordered Monsanto to pay more than $80 million to a man who developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma after using Roundup weedkiller poison. It was the second of two trials which Monsanto has now lost over its best-known product.
After a day of deliberations, the jury found Monsanto guilty on a failure-to-warn claim, a design-defect claim, and a negligence claim. They voted unanimously to award plaintiff Edwin Hardeman $200,967 in economic damages, roughly $5 million in future and past economic damages, and $75 million in punitive damages. He had used Roundup for more than two decades.
Monsanto is now 0-2 in Roundup trials. This second trial was the first in federal court against Monsanto, which also lost the first state court trial over Roundup last summer, in a $289 million verdict later reduced to $78.5 million.
“A jury has spoken twice after hearing evidence from both sides,” said attorney David Matthews, whose law firm is handling Roundup lawsuits against Monsanto. “They have loudly denounced this pesticide as causing cancer. We hope Monsanto will finally listen. Our health is our wealth. It must not be needlessly compromised.”
Controversial Two-part Trial Format
Unlike the first trial, this one featured a controversial two-part format (against the plaintiff’s wishes) in a curious “bifurcation” arrangement. The first part, dubbed “causation,” ended on May 19 (see: Down goes Monsanto!) when the jury ruled unaimously that Roundup was a substantial factor in causing Mr. Hardeman’s cancer. That ruling sent the trial into a second phase which allowed the plaintiff’s side to offer some (but far from all) evidence of Monsanto’s secret moves to control worldwide media spin over Roundup, hire ghostwriters to promote Roundup while posing as disinterested third parties, and massage and manipulate federal EPA regulators.
In the second phase, the plaintiff’s side was able to show the jury evidence of how Monsanto was aware, since at least 1980, of five epidemiological studies, seven animal studies, three oxidative stress studies, and 14 genotoxicity studies that linked Roundup products to cancer. Lawyers for the plaintiff in closing Monsanto never warned consumers and refused to conduct its own long-term research because the company was afraid of what it would find.
Monsanto’s attorneys argued that glyphosate, Roundup’s only active ingredient listed on the product, is the most studied pesticide in the world and no health organizations or regulatory body had ever found glyphosate could cause cancer, until recently.
To award punitive damages, Monsanto’s attorneys told the jury they would have to believe company employees committed criminal conduct and are lying about Roundup safety.
The jury determined that Monsanto employees committed criminal conduct and were lying about Roundup safety.
Mr. Hardeman’s case is the first to go to trial in federal court in California’s northern district over allegations involving Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro poisons. Some 700 cases have been consolidated before Judge Vince Chhabria. He said during a hearing earlier this year that he will likely “push the pause button” on federal litigation after the verdict in the next Roundup trial, in order to allow the parties to consider settlement negotiations. The next Roundup trial is scheduled to start in start court in Oakland, Calif. May 20.
Monsanto loses second Roundup Trial
The case is Hardemanv. Monsanto Co. et al., case number 3:16-mc-80232. The MDL is In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation case number 3:16-md-02741 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.