Monsanto Loses Another Appeal Over Liability for Roundup Pesticide

Monsanto has lost another appeal — this one a $25 million damages award to a San Francisco resident who suffered from cancer after spraying Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide on his property for more than 26 years, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. In the trial, the jury found that Monsanto “intentionally downplayed and ignored calls to test Roundup’s carcinogenic risks,” and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the evidence supported the verdict. One of the judges issued a partial dissent, arguing that the damages were too high and should be reduced to $10.4 million.

Why This Matters:  There are thousands of cases pending against Monsanto for Roundup — a common weedkiller used in residential yards all across the U.S.  The company has not had any luck in court overturning liability verdicts, though they have had damages reduced.  They said they will appeal it to the Supreme Court, where they might get a more favorable look.  While the EPA has maintained that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup is safe and allowed its sale without warning labels, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was a probable cause of cancer in humans.

Monsanto’s Malice

Lawyers for the plaintiff told The Hill that “The Court ruled that ‘substantial evidence of Monsanto’s malice was presented to the jury, supporting punitive damages.’  Internal emails showed that Monsanto knew of the risk of cancer and failed to warn consumers like Mr. Hardeman.  Today is significant for consumers holding pesticide companies like Monsanto accountable.”  In addition, the Court held that the state law requiring Monsanto to warn consumers of the risks was consistent with and not overridden by federal laws that regulate toxic pesticides.  Indeed, the judges found that federal law did not prevent a jury from finding the herbicide to be a cause of cancer, despite the EPA’s conclusion that it was safe.

Thousands of Cases, But Few Trials

In this case, the plaintiff sprayed Roundup on weeds and on poison oak at his home and another property for years and later was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  According to The Chronicle, there are tens of thousands of similar claims pending nationwide against Monsanto, and given the fact that none of the three verdicts reached so far have been thrown out, more cases are likely to be filed, according to experts.  Very few cases have gone to trial, and this is the only verdict so far in federal court.  The other two cases were heard in state courts in California. In 2019, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson of Vallejo, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer after spraying the chemical as a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District won his case but had the damages reduced to $21.5 million — the California Supreme Court rejected Monsanto’s appeal.  The company is appealing another verdict in California in which a couple was awarded $86.2 million in damages because they developed cancer after spraying Roundup on their properties for 30 years.

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