Jury awards couple $2B in Roundup weedkiller cancer case


The verdict is the third legal defeat in a row for Monsanto, Roundup's parent company, which was acquired by Bayer previous year.

The Pilliods said they had used the Roundup herbicide on their yard and other properties for decades.

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. That was later reduced to $78 million.

This follows almost six weeks of testimony followed by closing arguments last Wednesday.

The firm also stressed that the verdict clashed with the view of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-reiterated just weeks ago-that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is not carcinogenic.

The trials were the first of an estimated 13,000 lawsuits against Monsanto.

Alva Pilliod, 76, and Alberta Pilliod, 74, were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2011 and 2015.

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The World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) did deem Roundup a probable carcinogen in 2015-and though the evidence was mixed and partially based on animal studies, some scientific research has backed that classification.

The company said both Alva and Alberta Pilliod had long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It insists the glyphosate-based product is not linked to cancer. 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. "The problem is that Monsanto marketed Roundup as being a safe product for decades, even though the company allegedly knew that a Roundup cancer link existed, along with and a host of other serious health issues".

Bayer released the following statement in reaction to a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the case of Pilliod v. Monsanto, a trial conducted before Judge Winifred Smith in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Alameda.

In the first two cases, a San Francisco Superior Court jury past year awarded former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson of Vallejo $289 million, later reduced by the trial judge to $78 million. The verdict puts the onus on Bayer to alter its defense course and consider a settlement: litigation concerns have eroded Bayer's value by more than 40 per cent since the deal was sealed in June.

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. It also remains to be seen how juries in other part of the country react to the evidence in upcoming trials, he said.

The lawsuits have battered Bayer's stock since it purchased Monsanto for $63 billion a year ago and Bayer's top managers are facing shareholder discontent.