Judge Winifred Smith
OAKLAND – Judge Winifred Smith has tentatively granted Monsanto’s motion for a new trial in the $2 billion verdict cancer case of husband and wife Alva and Alberta Pilliod if all parties cannot come to terms on reduced damages at a hearing scheduled today.
Plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod won a landmark $2 billion verdict in May after alleging that glyphosate, the active chemical within Roundup, was a substantial factor in causing their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and that the company failed to warn its customers of the dangers that its product posed.
The couple, both in their 70s, alleged they used Roundup around several Bay Area properties for three decades before stopping in 2016 when they became aware of a possible link between glyphosate and NHL.
Earlier this month, Bayer, which purchased Monsanto last year, filed a post-trial judgment notwithstanding verdict (JNOV) motion as well as a motion seeking a new trial in which the company identified what it believes was improper conduct by the Pilliods’ legal team.
“First…the misconduct was egregious and rampant,” states the brief filed in Alameda County Superior Court. “Second, the misconduct persisted despite sustained objections and repeated admonishments from the Court. Even Plaintiffs admit the Court had to ‘rein in Counsel when he got heated during rebuttal.’ Third, the atmosphere of the trial was unnecessarily theatrical, with celebrity appearances in the courtroom and counsel’s dramatic demonstrations in which he pretended to be fearful of a Roundup bottle that he knew only contained water. Finally, counsel’s misconduct actually prejudiced the jury, as demonstrated by the excessive punitive damage verdict, which bears no relationship to the evidence or the compensatory damages.”
Additionally, the brief touched on how Monsanto believes the damages awarded are “unsupported, excessive and unconstitutional.”
Judge Smith this week both denied Monsanto’s motion for JNOV and conditionally granted its motion for new trial unless the Pilliods can consent to an entry of judgment that will be discussed at the Friday hearing.
“The punitive damages that made up most of the award should be reduced,” said Judge Smith in the 15-page opinion. “The court is INCLINED to find that appropriate punitive damages are an amount [2-4] times the combined economic and non-economic compensatory damages.”
Bayer issued a Thursday evening statement: “The court’s tentative order proposes changes in the damage awards, which would be a step in the right direction. Bayer will wait for a final order on the post-trial motions before commenting in further detail.”
As Bayer continues to stand by its message of the product’s safety, more than 13,000 plaintiffs nationwide have filed similar lawsuits claiming that Roundup is linked to their cancer.