A California jury has awarded a man $80 million after finding that Roundup weed killer, made by the agrochemical company Monsanto, caused his cancer. The award included $75 million in punitive damages, which were meant to punish Monsanto for acting with “malice or oppression” when it decided not to warn consumers of Roundup’s cancer risks.
According to the plaintiff, there have been multiple studies over the past 40 years that indicated Roundup is carcinogenic in humans. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency announced its finding that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is a human carcinogen.
The German pharmaceutical maker Bayer, which bought Monsanto last June, claims that four decades of research, along with the conclusions of regulators worldwide, demonstrate that glyphosate and Roundup are safe and non-carcinogenic.
The plaintiff in this case, who is 70, developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after 26 years of heavy Roundup use on his large property in Northern California.
This and other federal test cases could pressure Bayer/Monsanto to settle.
This jury verdict was considered the first of three federal test cases that could set the tone for thousands of other Roundup lawsuits filed after the World Health Organization’s 2015 announcement. The other two test cases are scheduled to be heard before the same judge, although he has now indicated he believes the remaining cases should be mediated in an effort to settle.
According to the Courthouse News Service, the three test cases were to be bifurcated. That means the jury first decides the issue of whether Roundup caused the plaintiff’s cancer. Then, if necessary, a second phase is held to determine if Monsanto was deceitful in refusing to issue the cancer warning. This process is meant to prevent potential anger at Monsanto’s behavior from inflaming the jury into an unfair finding of causation.
The judge was initially criticized for agreeing to the bifurcation, but it did not prevent Bayer/Monsanto from being found liable.
Bayer/Monsanto has vowed to appeal the verdict and to continue fighting the other cases.
This isn’t the first cancer verdict against Roundup. Last August, another California jury — this one in a state court case — awarded a groundskeeper $289 million in damages after he claimed that Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A judge later reduced that damage award to $78 million.
After two unanimous, multimillion-dollar verdicts finding that Roundup caused cancer, however, the plaintiffs say it is past time for Bayer/Monsanto to put a cancer warning on Roundup