A United States jury on Wednesday awarded $80m to a man who claimed his use of Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup caused his cancer, in the latest legal setback for the company facing thousands of similar lawsuits.
The jury in San Francisco federal court said the company was liable for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
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It awarded $5m in compensatory damages and $75m in punitive damages to Hardeman after finding that Roundup was defectively designed, that Monsanto had been “negligent by not using reasonable care” to warn of the herbicide’s cancer risk.
Agribusiness giant Monsanto, which is owned by Bayer, says studies have established that the active ingredient in its widely used weed killer, glyphosate, is safe. The company said it will appeal.
The company in a statement on Wednesday said it was disappointed with the jury’s decision.
“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,” Bayer said.
‘Loud and clear’
Jennifer Moore, Hardeman’s attorney, said: “The jury sent a message loud and clear that companies should no longer put products on the market for anyone to buy without being truthful.”
“There is no question roundup causes cancer and Monsanto needs to come clean once and for all.”
A different jury in August awarded another man $289m, but a judge later slashed it to $78m. Monsanto has appealed.
Hardeman’s trial may be more significant than that case. US Judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed Hardeman’s case and two others “bellwether trials”.
The outcome of such cases can help attorneys decide whether to keep fighting similar lawsuits or settle them. Legal experts said verdicts in favour of Hardeman and the other test plaintiffs would give their attorneys a strong bargaining position in any settlement talks for the remaining cases before Chhabria.
Many government regulators have rejected a link between cancer and glyphosate. Monsanto has vehemently denied such a connection, saying hundreds of studies have established that the chemical is safe.
Monsanto developed glyphosate in the 1970s, and the weed killer is now sold in more than 160 countries and widely used in the US.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and other regulators have found that glyphosate is not likely carcinogenic to humans.
The herbicide came under increasing scrutiny after the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classified it as a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015.
Lawsuits against Monsanto followed, and thousands are now pending across the US.