Jurors in Oakland, Calif., have hit Monsanto Co. with a $1 billion punitive damages verdict for each plaintiff in the third trial claiming that the blockbuster herbicide Roundup causes cancer in humans.
The jury of seven men and five women also awarded the plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod about $55 million in past and future economic and non-economic damages.
The trial is the third to allege that Roundup caused someone to get non-Hodgkin lymphoma but is by far the largest. On Aug. 10, jurors in San Francisco County Superior Court awarded $289 million to Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a school groundskeeper whose case was moved up for trial due to his poor health. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos reduced the award to $78.5 million, which Monsanto has appealed.
Jurors in federal court in San Francisco handed down an $80 million award March 27 for Edwin Hardeman, who alleged he got non-Hodgkin lymphoma after two decades of using Roundup to kill weeds on his 56-acre property in Sonoma County.
The third trial involved a California couple, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who alleged they both got non-Hodgkin lymphoma after spraying their property with Roundup. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith has been overseeing the trial, which began March 28.
The courtroom remained silent Monday afternoon as the verdict was read. But the plaintiffs team, led by Brent Wisner of the Los Angeles office of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, who also handled the Johnson trial, embraced each other and the two plaintiffs after jurors were dismissed and left the courtroom. Wisner’s co-counsel, Michael Miller of The Miller Law Firm in Orange, Va., turned to Wisner at the trial’s end and said, “You’re a hell of a lawyer.”
Jury member Doug Olsen, speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, said the verdict was meant to have a “punch-in-the-gut effect” on the company. A Bayer spokesman said that the company was disappointed with Monday’s verdict.
“We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), most NHL has no known cause, and there is not reliable scientific evidence to conclude that glyphosate-based herbicides were the ‘but for’ cause of their illnesses as the jury was required to find in this case,” the spokesman said.
This past week, Monsanto raised a host of concerns about Wednesday’s closing arguments, such as plaintiffs attorneys referring to Champagne on ice in its boardrooms or taking photos with actor Daryl Hannah in front of jurors.