SAN FRANCISCO – After nearly a week of deliberation, a San Francisco federal jury found that the Monsanto product Roundup was a substantial factor in causing a northern California man’s non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The 70-year-old plaintiff Edwin Hardeman’s cancer is said to have been caused by the chemical glyphosate, an active ingredient in the weed killer.
Hardeman was represented at trial by attorney Aimee Wagstaff, who argued that her client sprayed more than 6,000 gallons of Roundup for more than 26 years around his 56-acre northern California property.
“The dose makes the poison,” Wagstaff stated last week in her closing arguments. “The more you use, the higher the risk.”
Wagstaff of Andrus Wagstaff in Lakewood, Colo. and co-counsel Jennifer Moore of Moore Law Group, in Louisville, Ken., issued a joint statement following the verdict:
“Mr. Hardeman is pleased that the jury unanimously held that Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup. Instead, it is clear from Monsanto’s actions that it does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue. We look forward to presenting this evidence to the jury and holding Monsanto accountable for its bad conduct.”
While the decision is a big win for Hardeman and a blow to Bayer, which acquired Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018, the case is not over just yet.
The trial will next enter into a second phase, where the plaintiff’s lawyers can present testimony alleging the company attempted to influence regulators, scientists, public officials and the general public about the safety of Roundup and their other products over the past several decades.
Bayer released the following statement after the verdict was announced.
“We are disappointed with the jury’s initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," the statement reads. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer. Regardless of the outcome, however, the decision in phase one of this trial has no impact on future cases and trials because each one has its own factual and legal circumstances. We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family, but an extensive body of science supports the conclusion that Roundup was not the cause of his cancer. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them."
U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California decided to split the case into two phases after he called evidence of alleged corporate misconduct “a distraction from the scientific question of whether glyphosate causes cancer.”
Bayer's statement on the safety of glyphosate continued:
"Roundup products and their active ingredient, glyphosate, have been used safely and successfully for over four decades worldwide and are a valuable tool to help farmers deliver crops to markets and practice sustainable farming by reducing soil tillage, soil erosion and carbon emissions. Regulatory authorities around the world consider glyphosate-based herbicides as safe when used as directed. There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous studies submitted to EPA, European and other regulators in connection with the registration process, that confirms that these products are safe when used as directed.
"Notably, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study – the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute- supported long-term study that followed over 50,000 pesticide applicators for more than 20 years and was published after the IARC monograph – found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer. Additionally, EPA’s 2017 post-IARC cancer risk assessment examined more than 100 studies the agency considered relevant and concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,’ its most favorable rating. As Health Canada noted in a very recent statement, ‘no pesticide regulatory authority in the world currently considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed.’”
For the past several days, as the jury deliberated, both sides have been preparing in the event proceedings advanced to a second phase on liability and damages to a jury of six.
Edwin Hardeman v. Monsanto Company is the second high profile battle between defendant Monsanto and similar accusations that resulted in a $78 million win for terminally ill groundskeeper Dewayne Lee Johnson last year.
However, being the first of its kind at the federal level, this trial is considered to be a bellwether case for an upwards of 10,000 similar suits to follow around the United States.