For the second time in less than a year, a federal jury has awarded a multi-million judgment to a plaintiff who claimed his lymphoma was caused by exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide RoundupTM.
The 70-year-old plaintiff, Edwin Hardemann of Santa Rosa, California, testified that he used an estimated 6000 gallons of RoundupTM on his own property over the course of nearly three decades in order to deal with invasive vegetation. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) in February of 2015. Since that time, he has had six rounds of chemotherapy and must undergo continuous health monitoring. In his complaint, Hardemann alleged that Monsanto knew, or should have known, about the health dangers of RoundupTM and failed to adequately warn consumers.
During the trial, a witness for the defense, former Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, emphatically said that Monsanto was a “science-based company” and that its glyphosate-containing herbicides have been approved by regulatory agencies in countries around the planet. However, when asked about safety studies, he admitted that he had “no idea” of what had been done. He also acknowledged that despite spending $1.5 billion a year on research and development, Monsanto had never done any studies of possible impacts of glyphosate on human health. When asked why not, he replied that it was “...more a question of what was required by the regulating authorities around the world.”
On March 19th, the jury found that glyphosate exposure was “a substantial factor” in Hardemann's illness. This past week, the jury concluded the second phase of the trial by awarding Hardemann $5.2 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages.
This is the second major setback for Bayer, which took over Monsanto in a buyout in early June of 2018. Less than three months later, a jury awarded approximately $290 million in damages to a former groundskeeper from Bernicia, who suffers from terminal NHL. Later, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanna Bolanos reduced that award by over 70 percent, expressing “doubts” about the jury's decision. Bayer is currently appealing the rest of the verdict.
Losing the second bellwether trial does not bode well for Bayer, which continues to defend RoundupTM as posing no threat to human health, despite increasing scientific evidence to the contrary. The World Health Organization lists glyphosate as a “likely carcinogen,” and the state of California lists the chemical as one “known to cause cancer.” Several countries in the European Union and Latin America have either banned the use of RoundupTM or placed severe restrictions on its use. Meanwhile, in the US, the EPA (which has been complicit in Monsanto's alleged coverup) has decided that RoundupTM is “unlikely” to cause cancer in humans. Nonetheless, three states, as well as numerous city and county governments, have moved toward instituting their own bans and restrictions.
Currently, Bayer, which incurred Monsanto's liability when it purchased the company, faces approximately 1,600 lawsuits in the current multidistrict litigation in California and several thousand more across the country.