By Helen Christophi
SAN FRANCISCO – Agrochemical giant Monsanto failed to warn a California man that its Roundup weed killer causes cancer even though it knew the widely used herbicide is unsafe and must pay more than $80 million in damages, a unanimous jury found Wednesday.
Concluding Monsanto acted with “malice or oppression” by not putting a cancer warning on Roundup’s product label despite multiple studies showing the herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the six-person jury awarded plaintiff Ed Hardeman $75 million in punitive damages as punishment for the company’s deceitful conduct and to deter similar conduct in the future.
Jurors also awarded Hardeman about $5.6 million in compensatory damages – $3.6 million for past pain and suffering and $2 million for future pain and suffering – as well as $200,967 in past medical expenses stemming from four years of treatment for Stage 3 non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which Hardeman said was caused by his heavy Roundup use over 26 years on his large property in Sonoma County.
Hardeman and his attorneys cried and embraced as U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria announced the verdict. They were expected to hold a press conference later Wednesday afternoon.
Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto last June, vowed to appeal in an emailed statement.
“We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family,” Bayer said, but “stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”
The company added, “This verdict does not change the weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide that support the safety of our glyphosate-based herbicides and that they are not carcinogenic. The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances.”
In a statement, Hardeman’s lawyers Aimee Wagstaff with Andrus Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore with Moore Law Group praised the jury.
“Mr. Hardeman is pleased that the jury unanimously held that Monsanto is responsible for causing his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As demonstrated throughout trial, since Roundup’s inception over 40 years ago, Monsanto refuses to act responsibly. It is clear from Monsanto’s actions that it does not care whether Roundup causes cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about Roundup. It speaks volumes that not one Monsanto employee, past or present, came live to trial to defend Roundup’s safety or Monsanto’s actions,” the lawyers said.
“Today, the jury resoundingly held Monsanto accountable for its 40 years of corporate malfeasance and sent a message to Monsanto that it needs to change the way it does business,” they added.
In the first such verdict against the agrochemical giant, a San Francisco jury in August 2018 ordered Monsanto to pay $250 million in punitive damages to school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson because its Roundup weed killer caused his fatal lymphoma.
Wednesday’s judgment also comes after Los Angeles County Supervisors ordered a halt to the use of Roundup on county property on March 21.
This is a developing story.