Edwin Hardeman, 70, used Roundup to control weeds and poison oak on his property for 26 years. In 2015, he learned that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The next year, after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen, Mr. Hardeman sued Monsanto.
Mr. Hardeman’s legal team presented expert testimony and research that Roundup causes mutations in human cells and that human populations that are exposed to Roundup are more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hardeman’s lawyers were able to present previously excluded internal documents allegedly showing the company’s efforts to influence scientists and regulators about the widely-used product’s safety.
During this trial United States District Judge Vince Chhabria took a different approach, he decided to split cases before him into two phases: one to decide causation on purely scientific grounds, the other to determine Bayer's potential liability and damages only IF the jury first ruled that the weed killer was a substantial factor in causing cancer. The six-member jury found that Monsanto should be held liable for the man’s illness because it failed to include a label on its product warning of the weedkiller’s risk of causing cancer. Rewarding Edwin Hardeman a total of $80 million, $5 million in compensatory damages, $75 million in punitive damages.
Judge Chhabria has scheduled another bellwether trial for May and a third trial is likely to also take place this year. All three will be split into causation and liability phases.
The verdict, delivered in United States District Court in San Francisco, is a milestone in the continuing public debate over the health effects of Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, the world’s most widely used weedkiller. The trial is only the second of more than 11,200 Roundup lawsuits set to go to trial in the United States. Previous litigation setbacks and a prior jury verdict against the company have sent Bayer shares plunging.
A statement from Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year for $63 billion dollars, said that the company would appeal the jury’s verdict. “We are disappointed with the jury’s decision, but this verdict does not change the weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide that support the safety of our glyphosate-based herbicides and that they are not carcinogenic,” the statement said. Bayer is also scheduled to face another Roundup trial in California state court that already has begun and at least two trials in Missouri state court in the fall.