A federal jury in San Francisco this week found that Roundup, a commonly used weedkiller, played a major role in causing a man’s cancer in California. This verdict delivered another major blow to Monsanto as it continues to fight a similar jury decision reached in 2018.
In a verdict that was announced March 19, the jury ruled in favor of Edwin Hardeman, a 70 year old man from Sonoma County. It was found that exposure to the herbicide Roundup was a major factor in the development of his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The weedkiller cancer case is now going to move to the next phase, where the jury will consider if Monsanto knew and hid information about the possible harm the weedkiller could cause. It will then decide whether they should award damages to Hardeman. (Buzzfeednews.com)
According to the man’s attorneys, Hardeman was pleased that the jury found that Roundup did contribute to his non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In the next round, his attorneys said they can now focus on evidence that Monsanto did not take a responsible and objective approach to Roundup’s safety. They look forward to presenting the evidence to the jury and holding the company accountable for its irresponsible conduct.
This is the lead case of a multidistrict litigation that features more than 1600 plaintiffs in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, and the second lawsuit that has gone to trial that alleges that Monsanto’s herbicides based upon glyphosate cause cancer. Multidistrict legislation or MDL is like a class action lawsuit because it consolidates pre-trial proceedings when there are several plaintiffs, for the sake of legal efficiency.
But unlike a class action lawsuit, each case in an MDL has its own trial and outcome. In other words, one plaintiff in an MDL could get a large settlement, and another could get nothing. (CNN.com)
In August 2018, another jury in California awarded formers groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, a man with terminal non-Hodgkins lymphoma who was awarded nearly $290 million in damages. That award from the roundup cancer lawsuit was reduced to $78 million and is currently being appealed.
The outcome of this latest weedkiller case could be the bellwether for how thousands of other Roundup cases go. As of January 2019, the company was facing weedkiller lawsuits from 11,000 plaintiffs. They claimed that exposure to glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, caused them harm.
Michael Baum, the lead attorney of one of the law firm who represented Dewayne Johnson, reported to the media that while the verdict this week will not necessarily set settlement standards for other Roundup cases, it was a major win for all Roundup-induced non-Hodgkins lymphoma cases and was a huge loss for Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer.
Hardeman was diagnosed with the cancer in February 2015 after he used Roundup to kill poison oak and other invasive plants and weeks on this 60 acre property for more than 20 years.
The non-hodgkins lymphoma lawsuit alleges that the man’s long term exposure to Roundup led to his cancer and that Monsanto was aware of should have been aware of the dangers and did not put enough warnings about the potential harms related to heavy use of Roundup.
Jennifer Moore, the roundup cancer lawsuit attorney for Hardeman, said that the man used the product regularly, spraying more than 6000 gallons of the herbicide over 25 years. On his property, they had a major problem with poison oak, and he had to spray it regularly to prevent the poison oak from taking over the trails and from also infesting their water system, and encroaching into the gutters on the roof.
Since he was diagnosed, Hardemen has had six rounds of chemotherapy and now goes for regular medical scans to see if the cancer is going to come back.
Monsanto Continues to Argue that Roundup Is Safe
Monsanto, which was purchased by the pharmaceutical company Bayer in 2018, has continued to argue that its product is safe. In a statement this week to the press, Bayer stated it was disappointed with the decision of the jury, and stressed that the company’s glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer.
Bayer stated this week that is was confident in the second phase of the trial that it would show that the conduct of Monsanto has been appropriate and the company should not be found liable for Hardeman’s cancer. The company said it did have a lot of sympathy for him and his family, but a large body of science shows that Roundup was not the cause of his cancer.
IARC Decision in 2015 Opened the Litigation Floodgates
In 2015, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a likely human carcinogen. But a draft report by the EPA concluded the herbicide is probably not a human carcinogen.
The EPA has been investigating reports that an EPA employee worked with Monsanto to perform biased research on glyphosate to arrive at a faulty conclusion that the chemical does not cause cancer.
In an order that was issued in early March 2019, District Court Judge Vince Chhabria, who is providing oversight of the Hardeman case, questioned Monsanto’s investigation of the possible risks of the herbicide.
Chhabria wrote that while the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is rather equivocal, there is very strong evidence that a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not really care whether its product is giving people cancer. It seems to instead focus on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises concerns about the issue.
Two years ago, Chhabria unsealed documents that indicated the company may have ghostwritten scientific papers and worked with EPA officials to stop a review of Roundup that would have been done by the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Monsanto Roundup Cancer – Hardeman Verdict. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/skbaer/monsanto-roundup-cancer-hardeman-verdict
- Roundup Cancer Risk. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.weedkillercrisis.com/topics/roundup-cancer-risk/
- Monsanto Verdict. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/20/health/monsanto-verdict-federal/index.html
- Weedkiller Boosts Risk of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.weedkillercrisis.com/news/weedkiller-boosts-risk-of-non-hodgkin-lymphoma/