SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A federal judge Monday significantly reduced a $80.27 million damage award to a Bay Area man who claims that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused his cancer.
District Judge Vincent Chhabria found the $5.27 million in compensatory damages to be appropriate but slashed the punitive damages from $75 million to $20 million, awarding a total of $25.27 million to plaintiff Edwin Hardeman.
Hardeman claims that glyphosate, the key chemical in Roundup, played a substantial factor in his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). A jury initially awarded Hardeman on March 27 in what has been the first case of its kind at the federal level.
“It is easy to uphold the award of past noneconomic damages,” wrote Chhabria in his final ruling. “Mr. Hardeman presented substantial evidence of his past emotional and physical suffering, including the terror of being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the uncertainty surrounding his long-term prognosis, and the debilitating effects of chemotherapy. There is no basis for questioning the jury’s valuation of that suffering.”
Chhabria also said that the jury acted “reasonable” in their decision to award Hardeman $75 million in punitive damages but the size of the award was “constitutionally impermissible.”
Bayer, which purchased Monsanto last year, released a statement following the court’s ruling:
“The Court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award is a step in the right direction, as constitutional limitations and controlling precedent dictate that excessive damage awards like those in this case be reduced. Still, the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the reliable evidence presented at trial, and conflict with both the weight of the extensive science that supports the safety of Roundup, and the conclusions of leading health regulators in the U.S. and around the world that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. Bayer plans to file an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”
Hardeman’s case was the second of three straight California victories for plaintiffs suing Monsanto over similar accusations. More than 13,000 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits nationwide.
In May, Chhabria set a February 2020 trial date for Stevick v. Monsanto, the second bellwether case at the federal level, after postponing it from earlier this year. He also set up a first wave of 16 California trials and five cases under a state law of Monsanto's choice.