A northern California jury on Monday awarded a married couple who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma more than $2 billion in punitive and other damages after concluding Monsanto failed to warn them about the risks of spraying Roundup.
Alberta and Alva Pilliod, both in their 70s, no longer have NHL, but one of their attorneys, Brent Wisner, said in closing arguments last week the cancer took a lot out of them. The couple were in court Monday afternoon as the verdict was read.
The total amount of the award is $2.055 billion — $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages. At trial, Wisner said the two had been exposed to Roundup on about 1,500 days over 30 years.
“After approximately 7 weeks of trial proceedings, the jury found that exposure to Roundup caused the Pilliods to develop NHL and that Monsanto failed to warn of this severe health hazard,” the law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman said in a news release. “Importantly, the jury also found that Monsanto acted with malice, oppression or fraud and should be punished for its conduct.” Baum, Hedlund is one of three firms representing the Pilliods.
The verdict is the biggest so far from three trials that ended in losses for Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer. In the previous two cases, plaintiffs were awarded about $369 million, but a $289 million verdict for Dewayne Johnson was reduced to $78.5 million by the judge in that case, and Bayer is appealing the decision.
In the other case, the first and only case to be tried thus far in federal court, Edwin Hardeman was awarded more than $80 million; Bayer is expected to appeal that decision as well.
In a statement following Monday's verdict, Bayer said it is “disappointed with the jury’s decision and will appeal the verdict in this case, which conflicts directly with the Environmental Protection Agency’s interim registration review decision released just last month, the consensus among leading health regulators worldwide that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, and the 40 years of extensive scientific research on which their favorable conclusions are based.”
“We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for NHL, most NHL has no known cause, and there is not reliable scientific evidence to conclude that glyphosate-based herbicides were the ‘but for’ cause of their illnesses as the jury was required to find in this case.”
Bayer added, “The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances. Also, this litigation will take some time before it concludes as no case has been subject to appellate review where key legal rulings in the trials will be assessed.”
The Environmental Working Group, Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity all issued statements hailing the verdict. “The cloud hanging over Bayer will only grow bigger and darker, as more juries hear how Monsanto manipulated its own research, colluded with regulators and intimidated scientists to keep secret the cancer risks from glyphosate,” EWG President Ken Cook said.
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