Livermore Couple Claiming Roundup Weed Killer Caused Cancer Awarded $2 Billion

Monsanto must pay couple $2bn in largest verdict yet over cancer claims

A jury in California on Monday ordered Bayer-owned Monsanto to pay more than $2 billion damages to a couple that sued on grounds the weed killer Roundup caused their cancer, lawyers said.

The award to Alva and Alberta Pilliod included $1 billion each in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages for economic and non-economic losses for their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Bayer released a statement on its Twitter page after the jury's verdict in California and has repeatedly said that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is safe.

In addition to the Hardeman and Pilliod cases, a jury in San Francisco past year initially awarded a man, Dewayne Johnson, $289 million in a case related to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and glyphosate-based products, but the judge later slashed the punitive damages levied against Bayer/Monsanto in that case to $39 million, down from $250 million (and left another $39 million in compensatory damages intact).

A federal jury in San Francisco previously ordered the weed killer maker to pay a man $80 million (NZ$121.7 million) and a San Francisco jury in August awarded $289 million (NZ$434 million) to a former greenskeeper, though a judge later reduced it.

The decision Monday marked the third defeat in court for Monsanto in California since August.

"Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe", R Brent Wisner, one of the Pilliods' attorneys, said in a statement after the verdict.

Bayer announced last month that over 13,000 lawsuits related to the weedkiller had been launched in the US.

They filed their lawsuit in 2017 after being diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

"The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances", the company said. Both of them are now in remission, but their trial had been expedited due to the risk of a relapse and potentially short life expectancy.

Shareholders have rebuked the company's top management over its handling of the Monsanto acquisition and the litigation it inherited, which has wiped around 30 billion euros ($33.68 billion) from Bayer's market value since the first jury verdict. "A number of Roundup cancer studies have confirmed that glyphosate exposure is a probable cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers".

The juries have repeatedly ruled that Roundup was defectively designed, that the company failed to warn consumers about the cancer risks, and that Monsanto has acted negligently.

The U.S. EPA, the European Chemicals Agency and other regulators have found that glyphosate is not likely carcinogenic to humans.

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