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Roundup Time For Monsanto: A California Man Awarded $80 Million For Herbicide-Induced Cancer

April 02 2019 | Blog
  • A recent multimillion-dollar jury verdict sheds new light on the controversy surrounding Monsanto’s flagship product. Read on to find out what it can mean for those who have suffered similar injuries due to Roundup exposure.

     

    After a month-long trial, a jury in California awarded Edwin Hardeman $80 million in damages in relation to his claims that Roundup, a popular weed killer manufactured by the agricultural company Monsanto, unjustly exposed him to cancer risk, eventually leading to Hardeman developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hardeman, now a 70-year old cancer survivor, testified that he had used Roundup for years on his property to fight off weeds and overgrowth as well as poison oak.

    Out of the amount awarded, the jury apportioned as much as $75 million as punitive damages whose purpose is to punish the defendant for their reckless, irresponsible conduct, deter from further wrongdoing, and incite to change their questionable practices. In this article, we explain the ramifications of this verdict and how this case may affect other similar cases against Monsanto.

     

    Why Is This Verdict Significant?

    The high amount of punitive damages awarded as well as the legal theories invoked by the plaintiff’s attorneys make this judgment, in the opinion of many, a landmark case – even though it’s actually the second Roundup-related trial against Monsanto in the U.S. judiciary system. The first such case was heard last year in August, also by a court in California, and although the jury in that trial awarded the plaintiff an even higher compensation amount – a staggering $289 million – the verdict was later decreased by the judge to $78 million and Monsanto appealed it.

    The Hardeman vs. Monsanto case is also significant because it is considered to be a bellwether trial. This legal concept relates to cases whose outcomes may be used as a precedent, helping juries and judges to reach verdicts in other similar lawsuits. Attorneys representing victims claiming similar injuries in litigation against Monsanto can use the verdict in Hardeman’s case as leverage in settlement negotiations with the agricultural giant, considerably swaying the odds for reaching a just and satisfactory settlement.

    In the U.S. alone, Bayer AG – a German pharmaceutical company who acquired Monsanto last year – is currently facing about 11,000 trials in relation to Roundup cancer risk. Commenting on the potential impact of such an extensive litigation effort against Monsanto, Tom Claps, a legal analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group, said that he didn’t believe the company “will lose every single trial” but that it was likely “that they could lose a significant majority”.

     

    The Monsanto Controversy: What Is Roundup?

    Over the years, Monsanto – an American company founded as far back as 1901 and credited with the invention of a number of well-known chemicals used in the food industry – has been involved in many controversies related to their business model and products. Out of these, Roundup is one of the most talked-about and the most questionable.

    Roundup is the market name of an herbicide – a weed killer – based on a chemical agent called glyphosate which the company created in the mid-1970s. In addition to the chemical, Monsanto also created genetically-modified, Roundup-ready crops. These agricultural products – including staples such as soybean and corn – where designed to be resistant to glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient. This meant that farmers could use large quantities of Roundup on their crops to quickly and efficiently kill weeds with no apparent damage to the crop.

    While this may seem practical and advantageous at face value from an agricultural perspective, the widespread use of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides has been associated with an array of negative environmental consequences – from the mass disappearance of bees in recent decades to instances of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a dangerous form of cancer – in humans.

     

    Monsanto’s Dubious Marketing Strategies

    The controversy surrounding Roundup was rekindled in 2015 when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), after a fresh round of studies, classified Roundup as potentially carcinogenic to humans. This result made international news largely because IARC thus became the first health-safety agency to make such a statement. Other international regulatory bodies – such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – had previously maintained that it was unlikely that Roundup could cause cancer in humans from exposure through the diet.

    Remarkably, as shown through depositions and the company’s internal documents that came to light in relation to the Hardeman lawsuit and other similar lawsuits recently, Monsanto spent a considerable amount of money on marketing ploys aimed at discrediting IARC’s findings. For example, it was revealed that the company’s dubious strategies had included convincing a Reuters reporter to write a story that played down the importance and relevance of the IARC study and getting a well-known scientist to sign and publish at Forbes.com a critique of IARC that was actually ghostwritten by Monsanto’s team.

    As the number of Roundup-related cases that go to trial increase, it is likely that more incriminating evidence of similar kind will be brought to light. Those who have suffered negative health consequences reasonably attributed to exposure to Roundup, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, should talk to a lawyer about their legal options.

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