In the first such lawsuit to go to trial, a California jury has ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to a school groundskeeper who developed cancer after routinely using the company’s glyphosate-based weed killers, including Roundup. After deliberating for three days, the jury found that Monsanto failed to warn consumers of the cancer risks posed by its products containing glyphosate.
Monsanto, a unit of the German conglomerate Bayer AG, is facing several thousand similar lawsuits in the U.S.
While the EPA concluded last September that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, it did not say glyphosate was safe or could not cause cancer. Not surprisingly, Monsanto denies that glyphosate causes cancer, citing various scientific studies and reviews it claims show the chemical to be safe.
Growing body of evidence
However, a growing body of evidence suggests otherwise. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded the chemical is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Part of the theory used against Monsanto was that it was not just the glyphosate alone that causes cancer, but how the glyphosate interacts with the other ingredients in Roundup that make the product even more carcinogenic.
The 46-year-old groundskeeper who brought this case developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a deadly cancer of the lymph system. Doctors say he is unlikely to survive much longer.
A former pest control manager for a school system, the man applied Roundup and Ranger Pro, another glyphosate herbicide manufactured by Monsanto, up to 30 times per year.
The four-week trial involved evidence from doctors, public health researchers, epidemiologists, and statisticians who didn’t always agree on whether glyphosate causes cancer. After hearing all the evidence presented by both sides, the jury concluded that it is more probable than not that the chemical, or at least Roundup, is carcinogenic, that Monsanto knew of the risks but failed to warn consumers, and awarded the plaintiff $39 million in compensatory damages and another $250 in punitive damages, which are meant to punish defendants for wrongdoing.
The plaintiff’s attorney says this trial was the first one where jurors could see internal company documents “proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate and specifically Roundup could cause cancer” and yet did not bother to even warn consumers of the cancer possibility. He called on the company to “put consumer safety first over profits.”
Questions you may have
If you or a family member may have been harmed by Roundup, you may have questions. To learn more, reach out to an attorney knowledgeable about glyphosate liability claims. Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers stands by to represent people in Tennessee who have been sickened by Roundup herbicide or other glyphosate-based products.