In the phase two verdict, a court awarded $80 million to the plaintiff in the case of Hardeman vs. Monsanto -- a trial conducted in the federal multi-district glyphosate litigation before Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California.
Edwin Hardeman and his wife spent decades living in Sonoma County, Cal., on 56 acres of land that was once used as an exotic animal refuge. Hardeman started using Roundup products to treat poison oak, overgrowth and weeds on his property in the 1980s and continued heavy spray activity through 2012. In February 2015, he was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- roughly a month before the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup, as a “probable human carcinogen.”
Hardeman retained the Andrus Wagstaff law firm to represent him and filed a lawsuit against Monsanto on Feb. 12, 2016. The lawsuit alleges that exposure to Roundup was a substantial factor in causing Hardeman to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Monsanto denies that Roundup caused Hardeman’s cancer.
Chhabria selected Hardeman’s case to be the first out of hundreds of other federal Monsanto Roundup cancer cases to go before a jury. In January 2019, Chhabria granted Monsanto’s request to bifurcate the Hardeman trial, which allowed for a decision on whether or not Roundup significantly contributed to Hardeman’s cancer, followed by the second phase to establish conduct and damages (both compensatory and punitive).
Bayer, which purchased Monsanto, issued a statement saying: “The jury in this case deliberated for more than four days before reaching a causation verdict in phase one, an indication that it was very likely divided over the scientific evidence. The legal rulings under which the court admitted expert scientific testimony from the plaintiff that it called 'shaky' is one of several significant issues that the company may raise on appeal. Monsanto moved to exclude this same evidence before trial.”
Bayer added, “We are disappointed with the jury’s decision, but 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. Bayer will appeal this verdict.”
Bayer noted, “We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”
Bayer said Roundup products and their active ingredient, glyphosate, have been used safely and successfully worldwide for more than four decades and are a valuable tool to help farmers deliver crops to markets and practice sustainable farming by reducing soil tillage, soil erosion and carbon emissions.
Regulatory authorities around the world consider glyphosate-based herbicides to be safe when used as directed. There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides -- including more than 800 rigorous studies submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency as well as European and other regulators in connection with the registration process -- that confirms that these products are safe when used as directed. Notably, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study – the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute-supported long-term study that followed more than 50,000 pesticide applicators for more than 20 years and was published after the IARC monograph – found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer.
Additionally, EPA’s 2017 post-IARC cancer risk assessment examined more than 100 studies the agency considered relevant and concluded that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans” -- its most favorable rating. As Health Canada noted in a very recent statement, “no pesticide regulatory authority in the world currently considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed.”
The first case to proceed to trial, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson vs. Monsanto Co., resulted in a $289 million jury verdict in August 2018, which the presiding judge later reduced to $78.5 million (Johnson v. Monsanto is a California state court case that is not part of the California Roundup Judicial Council Coordination Proceedings). The Johnson case is currently on appeal.
The Pilliod vs. Monsanto Co. (now Bayer) trial began with jury selection on March 25, 2019, in the Superior Court of California for the County of Alameda before Judge Winifred Smith. Attorneys for the plaintiffs anticipate that the trial will last about a month. The trial itself begins March 28.
Pilliod vs. Monsanto is the first case in the California Roundup Judicial Council Coordination Proceedings and the third Roundup cancer case to proceed to trial.
More than 250 Roundup cancer cases have been consolidated before Smith as part of the California Roundup Judicial Council Coordination Proceedings. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Bayer is also scheduled to face at least two trials in Missouri state court in the fall.