May 13, 2009 — A couple in Oakland, California was awarded $2 billion in punitive damages, after a jury concluded that their cancer diagnoses were caused by sustained exposure to Bayer’s Roundup weed killer. The couple will also receive $55 million to cover medical expenses and for pain and suffering. Bayer acquired Roundup weed killer last year as part of a $66 billion takeover of Monsanto, a company that was the subject of much controversy in 2013 regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
This is the third time that Bayer, a German pharmaceutical group, has been ordered to pay damages over the glyphosate-based herbicide. The jury argued that the company did not sufficiently warn customers of the product’s cancer risk. Bayer contested that the jury’s decision is in direct conflict with the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that there are “no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate.”
Monsanto first developed Glyphosate in the 1970s, and it has since become one of the most commonly used ingredients in weed killers around the world.
The San Francisco Superior Court in Oakland ordered the company to pay $1.37 billion to Alva Pilliod, and $1.18 billion to his wife Alberta Pilliod, after both plaintiffs contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
A spokesperson for Bayer expressed sympathy for the plaintiffs, but insisted that both plaintiffs have long histories of illnesses that are known to be risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bayer plans to repeal the jury’s decision on the basis that the jury was required to find that glyphosate-based herbicides were solely responsible for their illnesses.
The spokesperson further claimed, “Bayer believes the punitive verdict is excessive and unjustifiable.”
The Pilliods’s attorney, R. Brent Wisner, said in a statement to CBS News, “The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe.” Wisner also argued that the documents demonstrate that the company was more interested in attacking science that undermined their business goals.
Wisner also represented plaintiffs in the previous two lawsuits against the company. The first one awarded school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson $78.5 million after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014, as a result of regularly spraying a high-concentration version of Roundup at his job from 2012 to 2016. In the second case, Edwin Hardeman was awarded more than $80 million after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015. Hardeman had regularly used Roundup on his Sonoma, California property for more than 25 years.
Bayer now faces over 13,400 lawsuits in the U.S. over Roundup’s alleged cancer risk.
The company is also facing repercussions in the stock market. Bayer’s stock price closed at $15.91 per share after the verdict was announced, down 45 cents (2.76 percent per share) in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.