Livermore couple awarded more than $2 billion in Monsanto cancer judgement

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Bayer AG was ordered to pay more than US$2 billion in damages to a California couple that claimed they got cancer as a result of using its Roundup weedkiller for about three decades, raising pressure on the company to settle thousands of similar lawsuits.

The jury came to its verdict yesterday, Monday, May 13, and according to Reuters, the case is the largest U.S. jury verdict to date against the company in litigation over the chemical. On appeal a judge later slashed that payout to $78 million.

Glyphosate, the basic component in Roundup, was found to be the cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in both Alva and Alberta Pilliod.

The jury awarded each of them $1bn in punitive damages as well as a total of $55m in compensatory damages.

The jury awarded $2.055 billion to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a northern California couple who had used Roundup weed killer product for 35 years, the Wall Street Journal said on Monday.

"They were given an incredibly hard task having to analyze the highly-complex scientific issues in this case", said co-lead trial counsel R. Brent Wisner, of Baum Hedlund Law, in a statement after the verdict. A spokesman called the jury's decision "excessive and unjustifiable".

Bayer said the jury was presented with "cherry-picked findings" inconsistent with a statement last month by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which announced that glyphosate was not a carcinogen and posed no public health risk when used as directed. Johnson's cancer was diagnosed as terminal. It insists the glyphosate-based product is not linked to cancer. They are appealing the verdicts.

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In the first two cases, a San Francisco Superior Court jury previous year awarded former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson of Vallejo $289 million, later reduced by the trial judge to $78 million.

"There appeared to be more detailed evidence damaging to Monsanto, which strengthens plaintiffs' cases down the pipeline even further", said Pavlik, who has followed the trials. Brent Wisner told the panel his punitive damages request was roughly based on the gross profit of US$892 million recorded in 2017 by Monsanto's agricultural-chemicals division.

Both other jury verdicts also came in California, one in state court and one in federal court. The San Francisco groundskeeper was awarded $289 million, as the court ruled that the popular herbicide was responsible for his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The Pilliods allege the regular use of Roundup on their property between 1975 and 2011 caused them to develop cancers of the lymph system. It also remains to be seen how juries in other part of the country react to the evidence in upcoming trials, he said.

The US EPA, the European Chemicals Agency and other regulators have found that glyphosate is not likely carcinogenic to humans.

The lawsuits have battered Bayer's stock since it purchased Monsanto for $63 billion a year ago, The Associated Press reports. Alberta was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma brain cancer in 2015.