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California Couple Awarded $2 Billion in Roundup Trial

14 May 2019

In a bombshell verdict, a couple in California have been awarded more than $2 billion in punitive damages in their civil case against Monsanto, after accusing the maker of Roundup weed killer of causing their 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 largest payout in this series of cases to date - and, in fact, rates as one of the highest payouts in history over an alleged defective product.

"The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe", said their counsel, Brent Wisner. Regulatory authorities around the world consider glyphosate-based herbicides safe when used as directed.

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It comes after a landmark court ruling in the U.S. saw Monsanto ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for causing a man's cancer.

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

The jury in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Monday said the company was liable for plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod's contracting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a spokeswoman for the couple said.

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If plaintiffs continue to win cases decided by juries in Missouri, the momentum in their favor "may push Bayer to begin to negotiate", she said.

"Mounting evidence suggests that exposure to Monsanto's Roundup weed killer increases the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body's immune system", the law firm says on its website.

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. That award was later reduced to $78m and is on appeal. At its recent annual meeting, a shareholder revolt ensued, with more than half of the shareholders voting against absolving management for its decision to acquire the St. Louis-based seed and pesticide company. Bayer has now lost three trials in a row over claims Roundup causes cancer. Both are in remission but testified about lasting damage from the cancer. "A number of Roundup cancer studies have confirmed that glyphosate exposure is a probable cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers". People who are not farm workers or groundskeepers are being exposed to the cancer-causing chemical.

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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". The company argued that the ruling runs against what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said most recently about the chemical.

California Couple Awarded $2 Billion in Roundup Trial