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California Couple Awarded $2 Billion in Roundup Trial

14 May 2019

A California couple was awarded more than $2 billion in damages on Monday after a jury agreed that the Roundup weed killer they had been using for more than three decades had caused them to get cancer. The jury ordered the company to pay $1bn in damages to each of them, and more than $55m total in compensatory damages.

This is the third verdict against Monsanto in Roundup cases and the biggest so far.

"The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances", Bayer said in its statement.

The cases have uncovered internal Monsanto documents that plaintiffs' lawyers say reveal the ways in which the company has "bullied" scientists over the years and helped "ghostwrite" research defending the safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. Bayer also points to several regulators around the world that found that glyphosate was not carcinogenic to humans.

The verdict will be vulnerable to a legal challenge by Bayer because courts have generally held that punitive damages shouldn't be more than 10 times higher than compensatory damages.

In March, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $80m to another California man after finding Roundup caused his cancer.

The state court jury in Oakland concluded that Monsanto's weed killer caused the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Alva Pilliod and Alberta Pilliod each contracted. In contrast, plaintiffs in this case presented the jury with cherry-picked findings from a tiny fraction of the volume of studies available, and that failed to adjust for exposure to other pesticides, did not have statistically significant results, had very small exposed populations and/or are at odds with the full body of science.

It is the third trial since August 2018 in which a jury found that glyphosate caused cancer.

In their suit, they accused Monsanto of "fraudulently representing that Roundup is safe despite scientific evidence linking exposure to National Hockey League". In the first, school groundskeeper Dewayne "Lee" Johnson was ultimately awarded $78.5 million.

More than 13,000 similar lawsuits have been filed against the company, according to the EWG news release. The company also said it would appeal that decision. Both are in remission but testified about lasting damage from the cancer. The company cited the continuing approval of glyphosate by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and "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".

But Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, who oversaw the Pilliod trial, did not allow Bayer to tell the jury about the latest EPA assessment, saying that the agency's affirmation was not based on new science, but was merely a "comment".

California Couple Awarded $2 Billion in Roundup Trial