Northern California Record

Monday, November 18, 2019

Roundup trial’s second phase closes; plaintiff seeks punitive damages from Monsanto


By Rich Peters | Mar 27, 2019


SAN FRANCISCO – The second phase of the case of Edwin Hardeman v. Monsanto came to a close on Tuesday and the jury will now decide what damages are owed to the 70-year-old northern California man.

For Hardeman, attorney Jennifer Moore delivered first to a jury of six on behalf of Hardeman and her legal team, spending a lot of time discussing Monsanto’s “conscious disregard of safety.”

“Monsanto acted recklessly and with conscious disregard of safety, and that’s exact opposite of what a company should be doing," Moore said. "A responsible company would test its product; a responsible company would tell consumers if they knew that it caused cancer – and Monsanto didn’t do either of those things.”

Moore argued that Monsanto knew Roundup was an unsafe product for decades and admitted that it did not warn its customers.

“If Monsanto did the right thing and put a warning on the label, we wouldn’t be here,” Moore said. “Nothing has stopped this company and that’s because the only thing that matters to them is their greed.”

Hardeman won the science-based opening phase of the trial last week after the jury found that Roundup ingredient glyphosate was a “substantial factor” in causing his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Hardeman’s attorney in that phase, Aimee Wagstaff, argued that her client sprayed more than 6,000 gallons of Roundup for more than 26 years around his 56-acre northern California property.

U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California split the case into two phases in the opening days of the trial after he called evidence of alleged corporate misconduct “a distraction from the scientific question of whether glyphosate causes cancer.”

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018, has continued to argue that the glyphosate-based herbicides found in Roundup have been commonly used for decades and are not only safe for use without warning, but scientifically backed by decades of research to prove exactly that.

The trial’s second phase, however, leaned heavily on the question of whether or not Monsanto’s scientific theories and conclusions are skewed by manipulation, intimidation and payoffs.

Monsanto defense attorney Brian Stekloff delivered his closing arguments, addressing many of the accusations and maintaining his consistent message of the company's transparency.

“We are going to present the full evidence to you,” said Stekloff. “We want you to consider all of the evidence that you have heard.”

Stekloff continued, touching on Moore’s strong allegations from her closing arguments just minutes earlier. 

“They [Monsanto] performed all the tests required by regulators and then they conducted additional tests that were not required," he said. "This is quite an allegation to stand up here and say how awful and basically criminal Monsanto’s behavior was when they did this level of testing for 40 years, beginning in the 1970s, and then continuing through today.”

If the verdict goes in Hardeman's favor, he will be awarded at least $200,967.10 for his economic losses, but the jurors are also left to decide whether or not to add both non-economic and punitive damages.

Monsanto was valued at $7.8 billion when Bayer acquired the company in 2018. Following last week’s opening phase verdict, Bayer’s stock dropped more than 13 percent, continuing a steady decline since last summer amid legal troubles.

The Hardeman v. Monsanto verdict will also set the tone as a bellwether case for many to similarly follow. Last year’s first high-profile suit of its kind against Roundup initially awarded Dewayne “Lee” Johnson $289 million before that figure was later reduced to $78 million.

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Monsanto CompanyU.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

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