Jury orders Monsanto to pay $2 billion in weed killer case

Oscar PerryMay 16, 2019

A California jury ruled Monday that Monsanto must pay a record $2 billion in damages to a couple that was diagnosed with cancer after using the company's weedkiller Roundup.

This is the third lawsuit related to Roundup that Monsanto has lost in the state of California.

"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 National Hockey League 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 company said in a a release.

In March, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $80 million to another California man after finding Roundup caused his cancer.

Bayer, inventor of Aspirin and maker of stroke prevention drug Xarelto and Yasmin birth control pills, faces USA lawsuits from more than 13,400 plaintiffs over the herbicide's alleged cancer risk.

"We wish that Monsanto had warned us ahead of time of the dangers of using Monsanto and that there was something in the front of their label that said, 'Danger, may cause cancer, '" Alberta Pilliod said at a press conference, per BuzzFeed. But the judgment is nearly certain to be reduced, given U.S. Supreme Court rulings that cap the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages at 9 to 1.

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"The company has got to come to the table with a viable plan to resolve these cases, or the losses are going to mount", Micah Dortch, managing partner at the Potts Law Firm in Dallas who has filed dozens of Roundup cases, said by email.

The company quickly responded saying it was "disappointed with the jury's decision and will appeal the verdict in this case". The company is appealing the two previous verdicts in Roundup cases, and it said it would appeal this verdict as well. On appeal a judge later slashed that payout to $78 million. People who are not farm workers or groundskeepers are being exposed to the cancer-causing chemical. Hundreds of other cases are pending in federal multidistrict litigation.

It awarded $18 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod, and $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to his wife, Alberta Pilliod. The court didn't propose a ratio it felt correct, but said punitive damages should nearly never exceed nine times actual damages, it said. Bayer's stock plunged 10 percent after both verdicts.

Chairman Werner Wenning told shareholders at Bayer's annual general meeting in Bonn last month that company leaders "very much regret" falls in its share price.

On Friday, the French newspaper Le Monde broke the news that the public relations agency FleishmanHillard had compiled a list of over 200 journalists, politicians and scientists showing their positions on Monsanto, in an effort to help Bayer launch a media counter-offensive. The verdict was announced after the trading session closed, AP points out.

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