Bayer AG is not going to get a new trial in a lawsuit involving a man in California who was awarded $80 million by a jury after it determined exposure to Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (Bloomberg.com)
US federal judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco was expected to issue a second ruling yesterday on whether damages in the case should be reduced. He hinted at a hearing in July that some of the damages for the man’s pain and suffering may have been overstated, and that the $75 million in punitive damages could be too high.
It was announced yesterday that the judge decided to cut the jury verdict to $25.3 million. He stated in his latest ruling that the punitive damages were too high; this was based on the legal precedent that such damages should not be greater than nine times more than compensatory damages. (LATimes.com).
In his ruling from last week, Chhabria stated that Edwin Hardeman had shown enough evidence to the California jury that Roundup exposure led to his cancer.
A spokesman for Bayer AG stated the company was not surprised the judge had denied its request for a new trial; most of the arguments at the hearing concerned damages.
Spokesman Chris Loder stated that the court has not given its ruling yet about damages after post-trial motions, so the company will evaluate what its legal options are after there has been a final ruling on the motions.
The German-based company has said it will continue to defend its Roundup product after it lost three trials since 2018. That was when it acquired Monsanto, which began making Roundup 40 years ago.
Hardeman Was First to Challenge Roundup in Federal Trial
During the month-long trial in March, Hardeman, from Santa Rosa, California, testified that he sprayed Roundup for nearly 30 years on his property. He also claimed he got it on his skin several times before he had his cancer diagnosis. He used Roundup to control poison oak and weeds on his property starting in 1986.
Hardeman’s lawsuit was considered to be a bellwether case for hundreds of other plaintiffs who also claimed Roundup caused their cancer. This means the verdict is likely to have an effect for years on future lawsuits. Monsanto is now facing at least 9,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits regarding the product in the US.
Dewayne Johnson Ruling Resulted in $290 Million Award
That unanimous verdict last year followed another verdict in August 2018 where a California jury found that Roundup had caused the cancer of Dewayne Johnson, who was a former school groundskeeper. The jury found that Monsanto had not warned the man of possible health hazards, and had acted with malice or oppression. It awarded the man $290 million in damages.
However, the Hardeman trial was more limited in its scope. Johnson’s Roundup lawsuit lawyers argued that Monsanto was guilty of bullying scientists and tried to hide negative studies about Roundup. The federal judge on the Hardeman case would not allow Hardeman’s attorneys to talk about the alleged influence Monsanto had on regulations and research.
Chhabria even sanctioned a Hardeman lawyer for talking about the man’s personal history. She used this method to bring up internal company documents and to explain how several regulatory decisions were made about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. With the Hardeman trial being limited to just a discussion of whether exposure to Roundup caused cancer, his lawyer argued they were at a disadvantage. Still, in the end, Hardeman was awarded $25 million.
Monsanto has always argued that its product is safe and does not cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
While Chhabria limited the first part of the Hardeman trial to a discussion of the man’s cancer, he did rebuke the company somewhat with one of his procedural orders. He said there was some evidence that Roundup causes different types of cancer, but there was much stronger evidence that Monsanto did not seem to care whether Roundup was causing cancer. He added the company seemed more focused on trying to change public opinion and to undermine people who raised concerns about the product and cancer.
Hardeman’s attorneys were able to show the jury many examples of what they called “Monsanto’s bad conduct.” After they did that, they said after the trial that they were able to focus evidence presented on the fact that Monsanto had not taken a proper approach to product safety.
- Bayer Loses Bid for a New Trial in Second Roundup Verdict. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-07-13/bayer-loses-bid-for-a-new-trial-for-second-roundup-verdict
- Verdict Against Bayer AG Reduced to $25 Million. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bayer-roundup-monsanto-weedkiller-20190715-story.html
- Monsanto: Roundup Substantial Factor in Man’s Cancer. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/19/monsanto-trial-roundup-verdict-edwin-hardeman-cancer