Jury awards $2 billion to Livermore couple who says Roundup caused cancer

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

A jury in state court in Oakland, Calif., issued the verdict Monday after two other California trials over the herbicide yielded combined damages of $159 million against the company.

The Pilliods, a California couple in their 70s, allege the regular use of Roundup on their property between 1975 and 2011 caused them to develop cancers of the lymph system. They said exposure from more than three decades of spraying Roundup on weeds in several properties was a substantial factor in causing their illness. His wife Alberta was awarded another $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages. That was later reduced to $78 million.

This follows almost six weeks of testimony followed by closing arguments last Wednesday.

St. Louis-based Monsanto is owned by the German chemical giant Bayer A.G.

And, in August 2018, another California jury awarded groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson - the first to take on Monsanto - $289 million in state court, after a jury found Roundup caused his cancer.

Monsanto Co's Roundup is shown for sale in Encinitas, California, U.S., June 26, 2017.

"By now, most Bayer executives, its board and shareholders must all be questioning the decision to acquire Monsanto and its mounting liability over its cancer-causing weedkiller", Cook said.

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This is the latest defeat for the widely used herbicide, often hailed as one of the safest weedkillers available.

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).

Adam Zimmerman, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, on Monday said it was too early to speculate about a potential settlement of the litigation by Bayer.

"Bayer is disappointed with the jury's decision and will appeal the verdict in this case, which conflicts directly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's interim registration review decision released just last month, the consensus among leading health regulators worldwide that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, and the 40 years of extensive scientific research on which their favorable conclusions are based". She says they are unable to enjoy the same activities they participated in before their cancer diagnosis. 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. Bayer denies those allegations.

The American Cancer Society lists glysophate as a "probable carcinogen", based on a 2015 finding that it is "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization. In addition, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study - the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute-supported long-term study that followed over 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.

The contrast between today's verdict and EPA's conclusion that there are "no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate" could not be more stark.

The Alameda County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days before reaching a verdict.

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