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March 19, 2019

Jury Finds that Monsanto’s Weed Killer Caused Cancer in Roundup Lymphoma Trial

A San Francisco jury in the first federal Roundup lymphoma trial ruled unanimously Tuesday that Monsanto’s popular weed killer caused a man to develop cancer.

The six-person jury in the San Francisco District Court will now move on to the trial’s second phase to determine if Monsanto deliberately withheld safety risks from the public to protect Roundup’s sizable profits.

Tuesday’s verdict marks yet another setback for Bayer. The company has come under extreme pressure since a jury levied a $289.2 million verdict in August 2018 in the first state-court Roundup lymphoma trial. The decision came soon after Bayer completed its acquisition of Monsanto. Although the judge cut down the verdict to $78.5 million, it still sent a strong message about how these cases may continue to be received by the nation's courts.

roundup deposition Roundup lymphoma trial

flickr/Rob Kall

Roundup Cancer MDL

Due to striking similarities in the lawsuits in the federal court systems, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all federal lawsuits in a multidistrict litigation (MDL). Judge Vince Chhabria is presiding over the entirely of the litigation in the Northern District of California.

As part of the MDL proceedings, the court has established a bellwether trial program. These early test trials allow the parties to gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their respective sides.

In a move from a traditional trial structure, the federal litigation has opted to bifurcate the bellwether trials. The jury will consider causation in the first phase of the trials. If the jury determines that Roundup causes cancer, then the second phase will explore if Monsanto deliberately hid cancer risks.

The first Roundup lymphoma trial in the MDL began February 25. The plaintiff, Edward Hardeman, received an non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) diagnosis in 2015 after regularly using the weed killer around his property since the 1980s to control poison oak.

After nine days, the first phase of the Roundup lymphoma trial concluded this past Tuesday. During the trial, the jury heard evidence from both sides about whether Roundup causes cancer.

The jury deliberated for five days and even asked to rehear Hardeman’s testimony before reaching its decision, concluding a preponderance of evidence proved that Roundup exposure was a significant factor in Hardeman’s cancer.

State Court Roundup Lymphoma Trial

A separate Roundup lymphoma trial at the state-court level began Monday over allegations that a married couple developed NHL after spraying the controversial weed killer for years.

The court expedited Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s Roundup lymphoma trial as they are both dying from NHL. The couple allege they could have avoided the fatal disease if Monsanto had disclosed Roundup’s significant cancer risks. Jury selection began Monday in Alameda County Superior Court in California.

The plaintiffs submitted a trial brief this past week. The brief indicates that the couple have been married for 48 years. They began routinely spraying Roundup at their residence and rental properties in 1982.

“On average, the Pilliods sprayed Roundup about fifty days per year. In total, the Pilliods sprayed Roundup for approximately 1,500 days,” the brief stated. “The Pilliods had always viewed Roundup as a safe product based on advertisements from Monsanto showing people using Roundup in shorts and t-shirts.”

The couple in the Roundup lymphoma trial are seeking damages from Bayer acquisition Monsanto for deliberately failing to warn about risks to preserve profit margins for its popular weed killer.

Roundup Cancer Background

Currently, there are more than 11,000 similar lawsuits currently pending in the nation’s courts over allegations that Monsanto misrepresented the safety of Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, to protect profits at the cost of human lives.

In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. This classification triggered the current flood of lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny.

Just ahead of the first Roundup lymphoma trial, attorneys for the plaintiff released Monsanto internal documents that indicate Monsanto knew about the cancer risks for decades and exerted undue influence on regulators and scientific studies to protect Roundup sales.

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