SAN FRANCISCO - For the second time in less than a year, Monsanto was hammered by a federal jury which found Roundup caused cancer, making the company liable for more than $80 million in damages.
After less than a day of deliberation, a six-person jury awarded Edwin Hardeman $75 million in punitive damages on claims the company failed to warn of cancer risks, as well as $5.6 million in past and future non-economic losses and $200,967.10 in past economic losses.
“Monsanto acted recklessly and with conscious disregard of safety, and that’s the exact opposite of what a company should be doing,” said plaintiff attorney Jennifer Moore during closing arguments. “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.”
In the opening of the science-based phase of Hardeman v. Monsanto, jurors found that the chemical glyphosate, which is an active ingredient in Roundup, was a “substantial factor” in Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The 70-year-old northern California man is said to have sprayed more than 6,000 gallons of Roundup for more than 26 years around his 56-acre northern California property, according to his attorney Aimee Wagstaff.
The second phase, which concluded on Tuesday, leaned heavily on the question of whether or not Monsanto’s scientific theories and conclusions are skewed by the manipulation of science, and the intimidation and payoffs of scientists and other officials.
Hardeman’s attorneys issued a statement following Wednesday’s verdict.
“As demonstrated throughout trial, since Roundup’s inception over 40 years ago, Monsanto refuses to act responsibly. It is clear from Monsanto’s actions that it does not care whether Roundup causes cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about Roundup. It speaks volumes that not one Monsanto employee, past or present, came live to trial to defend Roundup’s safety or Monsanto’s actions. Today, the jury resoundingly held Monsanto accountable for its 40 years of corporate malfeasance and sent a message to Monsanto that it needs to change the way it does business.”
Bayer, which acquired Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018, has continued to argue the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides found in Roundup. The company also issued a statement on Wednesday following the jury’s decision.
“We are disappointed with the jury’s decision, but this verdict does not change the weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide that support the safety of our glyphosate-based herbicides and that they are not carcinogenic. The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances. Bayer will appeal this verdict.
“The jury in this case deliberated for more than four days before reaching a causation verdict in phase one, an indication that it was very likely divided over the scientific evidence. The legal rulings under which the court admitted expert scientific testimony from the plaintiff that it called ‘shaky’ is one of several significant issues that the Company may raise on appeal. Monsanto moved to exclude this same evidence before trial.
“We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”
The verdict will 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.
Across the Bay in Oakland, a third trial of its kind is just under way in the case of Pilliod v. Monsanto. Opening statements are expected by the end of the week.