A California jury on Monday awarded more than $2 billion to a couple who claimed Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer caused their cancer, in the largest US jury verdict to date against the company in litigation over the chemical.
The large punitive damages award is likely to be reduced due to US Supreme Court rulings that limit the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages to 9:1. The jury awarded a total of $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages.
It was the third consecutive US jury verdict against the company in litigation over the chemical, which Bayer acquired as part of its $63 billion purchase of Monsanto last year. Both other jury verdicts also came in California, one in state court and one in federal court.
The jury in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Monday said the company was liable for plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a spokeswoman for the couple said.
It awarded $18 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod, and $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to his wife, Alberta Pilliod. The jury found Roundup had been defectively designed, that the company failed to warn of the herbicide’s cancer risk and that the company acted negligently.
The German chemicals giant faces more than 13,400 US lawsuits over the herbicide’s alleged cancer risk.
The next jury trial in the glyphosate litigation is scheduled for August in Missouri state court, the first time a jury outside of California will hear a Roundup case. The trial will take place in St. Louis County, where Monsanto’s former headquarters are located.
Bayer in a statement on Monday said it was disappointed with the verdict and will appeal. A spokesman called the jury’s decision “excessive and unjustifiable.”
The company said both Alva and Alberta Pilliod had long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“The contrast between today’s verdict and (US Environmental Protection Agency’s) conclusion that there are ‘no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate’ could not be more stark,” Bayer said.
Bayer says that decades of studies by the company and independent scientists have shown glyphosate and Roundup to be safe for human use. Bayer also points to several regulators around the world that found that glyphosate was not carcinogenic to humans.
Brent Wisner, a lawyer for the Pilliods, at a news conference following the verdict said Bayer had to take responsibility for its product.
“Monsanto keeps denying that it causes cancer and these two fine people here are casualties of that deception,” Wisner said, standing next to the California couple, who are in their 70s.
A San Francisco state court jury in August 2018 awarded $289 million to a California groundskeeper, finding Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killers caused his cancer. That award was later reduced to $78 million and is on appeal.
In March, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $80 million to another California man after finding Roundup caused his cancer. The company also said it would appeal that decision.
Plaintiffs in the litigation allege that Monsanto had known about the herbicide’s cancer risk for decades, but failed to warn consumers and instead attempted to influence scientists and regulators to receive favorable assessments of its products. Bayer denies those allegations.