Juror Says $2B Award in Roundup Cancer Trial Was Intended to Have ‘Punch-in-the-Gut Effect’
Jurors awarded $2 billion in punitive damages Monday to a California couple who alleged that their longtime use of Roundup weed killer caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The case is the third time the maker of Roundup has been found liable for causing cancer, report the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the Recorder. The verdict is the largest so far.
Juror Doug Olsen told reporters that the verdict was intended to have a “punch-in-the-gut effect” on the maker of Roundup, according to coverage by the Recorder. Bayer AG acquired Roundup maker Monsanto last year.
Plaintiffs in the case are Alva and Alberta Pilliod, whose cancers are in remission. They used Roundup for 35 years on their San Francisco Bay Area property.
Jurors awarded $55 million in compensatory damages, making it likely that the punitive damages award will be reduced under Supreme Court precedent that limits the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages.
The couple’s case is the first among cases consolidated in California state court to go to trial, according to the Wall Street Journal. Hundreds of other cases are pending in federal multidistrict litigation.
About 13,000 lawsuits against Roundup lawsuits are pending, according to Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. The suits are largely based on a conclusion by the World Health Organization that the Roundup ingredient glyphosate is probably carcinogenic; Bayer points to contrary conclusions by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Elizabeth Burch, a law professor at the University of Georgia, told the Wall Street Journal that the third trial loss is significant because Bayer could have learned how to improve its case from past defeats. “Whatever the plaintiffs’ lawyers are doing, they have a pretty good formula,” she said.
Bayer released a statement saying it is disappointed with the jury’s decision and will file an appeal. Appeals also are being filed in the two other cases, the Wall Street Journal reports in another article.
Bayer says the jury decision conflicts with “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.” The company also says the decision conflicted with a review by the EPA that found no risks to public health when the Roundup ingredient glyphosate is used in accord with its current label.
“We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Bayer said in the statement.
“Plaintiffs in this case presented the jury with cherry-picked findings from a tiny fraction of the volume of studies available, and that failed to adjust for exposure to other pesticides, did not have statistically significant results, had very small exposed populations and/or are at odds with the full body of science,” the statement said.
By Debra Cassens Weiss [ABA]