A California jury has ordered German chemical firm Bayer to pay more than US$2bn to a couple that developed cancer after using the Monsanto Roundup weedkiller, in the third and largest verdict against the company.
The jury in Oakland ruled on 13 May that Bayer, which bought Monsanto for US$63bn last June, was liable for the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) cancer of Alva and Alberta Pilliod, the Guardian newspaper reported. The jury ordered the company to pay US$1bn in damages to each of them, and more than US$55M total in compensatory damages.
The ruling follows two previous trials where Bayer was ordered to pay US$80.3M to California resident Edwin Hardeman on 27 March and US$78M to former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson in October 2018.
The Pilliods used Roundup for more than 30 years to landscape their home and other properties, the Guardian said. In 2011, Alva was diagnosed with systemic NHL in his bones, which spread to his pelvis and spine, and Alberta was diagnosed with NHL brain cancer in 2015.
An attorney for the couple noted that the judge in the case had permitted the legal team to present significant evidence about Monsanto’s conduct, in contrast to previous trials, where evidence was limited.
“We were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto’s manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup’s severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind,” he said in a statement.
This included internal Monsanto documents showing the way the company had “bullied” scientists over the years and helped “ghostwrite” research defending the safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, the Guardian wrote.
Bayer said it was “disappointed” with the ruling and would appeal.
The company pointed to continuing approval of glyphosate by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Bayer has lost some 60% of its value since acquiring Monsanto and now faces around 13,400 similar Roundup cancer cases in state and federal courts in the USA.
Monsanto supplies farmers across the world with crop protection products and biotech crop seeds, such as soyabeans, corn, cotton, wheat and canola.