A U.S. appeals court has denied Bayer and Monsanto’s attempt to overturn a $25 million verdict handed down in the first federal bellwether trial over Roundup weed killer and its alleged link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The initial verdict was announced in March 2019 in a case brought by Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with NHL after years of using Roundup around his California property, and the appeals court last week upheld the full amount of compensatory damages awarded by the federal jury, as well as $20 million in punitive damages meant to punish the company for recklessly endangering consumer health by withholding warnings about Roundup’s possible cancer risk. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma allegedly caused by exposure to Roundup weed killer, do not hesitate to seek legal help from a knowledgeable Roundup cancer attorney. Call Consumer Safety Watch today to find out how we can help.
Roundup is a glyphosate-based weed killer widely used in commercial and residential applications to kill weeds, which it does by blocking enzymes that regulate plant growth. Roundup was first introduced by Monsanto in 1974, and its use skyrocketed in the years that followed, especially after 1996, with the introduction of “Roundup Ready” crops genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate. However, concerns about the potential health risks of Roundup exposure began to emerge in 2015, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen. According to a growing body of evidence, exposure to glyphosate in Roundup may increase a person’s risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and certain other cancers.
In the years since the IARC’s announcement, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Bayer and its Monsanto unit in state and federal courts by consumers who allege that exposure to Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and certain other types of cancer. The Roundup lawsuits all involve similar allegations that Bayer and Monsanto failed to adequately warn consumers about the cancer risks associated with Roundup exposure. More than 3,700 lawsuits are currently pending in the federal Roundup litigation, which has been centralized in the Northern District of California, before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria. A series of early “bellwether” trials were scheduled to give the parties an idea of how juries may respond to certain testimony and evidence that will be repeated throughout the Roundup litigation, the first of which involved claims by Edwin Hardeman.
Hardeman’s case was heard by a federal jury in San Francisco, and the jury’s initial decision was that Bayer should be required to pay a total of $80 million in damages, including $5 million in compensatory damages for the medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional trauma Hardeman suffered as a result of his NHL diagnosis, and another $75 million in punitive damages intended to punish Bayer for failing to disclose the risk that Roundup could cause cancer. Judge Chhabria later reduced the punitive damages portion of the federal jury verdict to $20 million, for a total award of $25 million. Bayer and Monsanto appealed the reduced verdict to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that Hardeman’s claims were preempted by federal law and that the expert testimony presented in Hardeman’s case did not meet the federal legal standard for reliability.
In a 2-to-1 opinion filed on May 14, the panel of judges representing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit “affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Edwin Hardeman in his action alleging that Monsanto’s pesticide, Roundup, caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” The panel also held that “the district court properly denied Monsanto judgment as a matter of law because evidence showed the carcinogenic risk of glyphosate was knowable at the time of Hardeman’s exposure.” Furthermore, the panel found that the reduced $20 million punitive damages award was permissible, considering the fact that “substantial evidence was presented that Monsanto acted with malice by, among other things, ignoring Roundup’s carcinogenic risks.”
The federal jury’s decision to uphold the $25 million Roundup verdict comes just days after a new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that side effects of glyphosate can damage the immune system of insects and make them susceptible to infection. According to researchers, glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, can inhibit the production of melanin, a pigment that is “found throughout all kingdoms of life” and “has diverse biological functions,” including UV protection, oxidant scavenging, thermoregulation, arthropod immunity, and microbial virulence. The study authors warn that exposure to environmental contaminants that inhibit melanin production could have a substantial impact on the health of many organisms, including insects. “Overall,” the researchers write, “these findings suggest that glyphosate’s environmental accumulation could render insects more susceptible to microbial pathogens due to melanin inhibition, immune impairment, and perturbations in microbiota composition, potentially contributing to declines in insect populations.”