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Federal Jury Awards $80M to California Farmer in Second Roundup Cancer Trial

By: Allan M. Siegel

Monsanto may be no more, but its legacy lives on in the ongoing litigation over Roundup, one of the world’s most widely used weed killers. The latest development to that legacy, a checkered one at best, recently came on March 27, 2019 when a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $80 million in damages to a Northern California farmer who claimed long-time use of Roundup on his 55+ acre farm caused his cancer.

The jury verdict sends a powerful message to Monsanto, which was acquired recently by Bayer, and may set the stage for the thousands of Roundup cancer lawsuits currently pending in courts across the country.

About the Verdict: $80M in Damages

The $80 million award was handed down by the same six-person jury which just weeks before found Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing the California farmer’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). According to the lawsuit, the 70-year-old farmer had used Roundup for decades on his property in Sonoma County. He was diagnosed with NHL in 2015.

The second phase of the trial ended with the jury awarding $5.3 million in compensatory damages, and $75 million in punitive damages, which are a damages awarded in cases involving egregious conduct, often for the dual-purpose of levying additional punishment, and deterring others from engaging in similar wrongs.

Roundup Litigation: A Second Blow to Bayer

Here’s a brief breakdown of the latest legal developments:

  • First Phase of the Second Trial – In the first phase of the California trial, the federal jury held the farmer’s long-term use of Roundup on his property was a substantial factor behind his cancer diagnosis. Their finding stems from plaintiffs’ arguments, a number of studies, and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) statement that glyphosate, the primary herbicide chemical in Roundup, is a “probable carcinogen” to humans. The second phase of the federal trial focused on damages.
  • The First Trial – The $80M award last month was the second against Bayer AG (Monsanto) over a Roundup cancer claim. In August 2018, a jury in state court awarded $289 in damages to a former California county school groundskeeper who used Roundup and another Monsanto herbicide (Ranger Pro) as part of his job. That verdict, the first in the Roundup cancer saga, was later reduced to $78M. The trial had also been expedited given the severity of the man’s cancer; he is not expected to live past 2020.
  • Pending Claims – The two verdicts are likely to set the stage for thousands of other similarly situated claims. According to Bayer, as many as 11,000+ people have filed suit against Monsanto over Roundup as of February.

The two resolved lawsuits, which Bayer will appeal, may open the flood gates to what could become massive and immensely costly litigation. It will also put on display long-standing complaints against Monsanto and its questionable practices. Though Bayer has maintained Roundup is safe, pointing to industry-funded studies and an EPA risk assessment in 2017 that reported glyphosate was “most likely” not carcinogenic to humans, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer did declare the herbicide a probable carcinogen in 2015.

That declaration is what prompted the California farmer in this case to file suit in 2016. In 2017, documents unsealed in his case suggested Monsanto had been a “ghostwriter” of research later attributed to academic resources. They also revealed a top EPA official made efforts to quash a federal glyphosate review.

Monsanto’s ghostwriting as a means of concealing risks associated with its products infamously made the American Association for Justice’s Report on the Worst Corporate Conduct of 2017.

The Fight for Justice

As Civil Trial Lawyers who represent the injured individuals and families in their fights against corporate powerhouses and large companies in injury-related cases, our team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. know this is a case to watch. Not only may it reveal safety-related information important to us all, the litigation provides a excellent example of how the civil justice system can “level the playing field” between Big Business and everyday Americans – and how it is so very critical to ensuring justice, accountability, and change.

If you or someone you love are seeking accountability, justice, and compensation for injuries and losses caused by the negligence of others anywhere in Washington, DC or the DMV, call (202) 644-8303 or contact CSCS online. We’re here to help you fight back.