Roundup Cancer Lawsuits Update – June 2019
On May 13, 2019, CBS News reported that an Alameda County Superior Court jury in Oakland, California deliberated for less than two days before awarding a huge damage award to an elderly couple who claimed that three decades of using the Monsanto Co. weed killer Roundup caused their cancer diagnoses.
Alva Pilliod and Alberta Pilliod received a total of $55 million in compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages. According to CBS, the Pilliods used the glyphosate-based Roundup for residential landscaping. Alva was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 while Alberta received the same diagnosis in 2015. Both are in remission.
As CBS noted, this was the third lawsuit that Bayer-owned Monsanto lost in California. In May 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Monsanto was asking a judge to transfer the next round of federal cases from California because of the “plaintiff-friendly laws” in the state and “highly prejudicial coverage” from the media.
The Chronicle noted that 1,300 federal lawsuits were consolidated in U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria’s San Francisco court, but Monsanto wanted the next federal cases to be scheduled in Nebraska and North Carolina, where some of the plaintiffs live.
In August 2018, a San Francisco Superior Court jury awarded former school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages after he was also diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, although NPR later reported that Johnson accepted a $78 million after the judge reduced the award.
Mr. Johnson claimed that he sprayed 150 gallons of Roundup up to 30 times a year for four years as a groundskeeper for the school district in Benicia. He developed lesions on over 80 percent of his body because of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and his trial concluded during his third round of chemotherapy.
In March 2019, CBS reported that a federal court jury in San Francisco awarded about $80 million to Edwin Hardeman who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 after using Roundup for more than a quarter-century. Hardeman won about $5 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages after the jury found that the herbicide was a substantial factor in his causing his cancer and that it lacked sufficient cancer warning labeling
In a statement released after the Pilliod verdict, Bayer claimed it planned to appeal the decision that it claimed “conflicts directly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s [EPA’s] interim registration review decision released just last month, the consensus among leading health regulators worldwide that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, and the 40 years of extensive scientific research on which their favorable conclusions are based.”
Bayer also claimed that Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod both had long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Backlash Against the Businesses
The day after the verdict was announced, Fox Business reported that there were more than 13,000 Roundup cases pending against Bayer. Fox also reported that Bayer’s stock price had lost nearly half its value since the company acquired Monsanto.
In April 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that 55 percent of Bayer shareholders refused to endorse management’s actions in the past year. The main issue for most shareholders was the company’s decision to purchase Monsanto. A very costly out-of-court settlement seems to be the probable way to resolve the thousands of Roundup claims still pending.
As Reuters noted, the $2 billion punitive damages award will likely be reduced because of U.S. Supreme Court precedent limiting the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages to 9:1. Using that ratio, the $55 million in compensatory damages might translate to a cap of about $495 million for the punitive damages component.
Reuters also reported that the next jury trial in the glyphosate litigation is set for August in a St. Louis County, Mo. court. St. Louis County is the location of the Monsanto’s former headquarters
Environmental Health News reported that Sharlean Gordon, the plaintiff in the upcoming St. Louis case, was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2006 after using Roundup for about 15 years, up through 2017. She underwent two stem cell transplants and spent a year in a nursing home as part of her treatment.
Another five cases involving some 20 plaintiffs will also be heard in St. Louis County court this year Two cases involving 34 plaintiffs will be heard by St. Louis state courts in 2020, and another case will be heard in the 18th Judicial District Court in Gallatin County, Montana.
Actions against Roundup are not limited to American shores either. In May 2019, the Western Producer reported that a Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, farmer was leading a class action lawsuit in Canada against Bayer and Monsanto after being diagnosed with cancer five years ago.
One month later, the St. Louis Business Journal reported that a lawsuit filed against Bayer over Roundup by a gardener in Australia was the first such action in that country.
The Dangers of Glyphosate
A February 2019 research review by several former EPA scientists suggested a compelling link between glyphosate-based herbicides and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The EPA issued a press release on April 30, 2019, however, that claimed the agency continued to find that “there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”
The EPA noted that glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in agriculture in the United States and is used on more than 100 food crops.
“EPA has found no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the release.
Similar evaluations performed by Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded, respectively, that “products containing glyphosate do not present unacceptable risks to human health or the environment when used according to the revised product label directions” and “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential.”
The World Health Organization (WHO), however, came to a different conclusion. A working group of 17 experts from 11 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015. The experts reviewed scientific evidence and evaluated the carcinogenicity of glyphosate and four other organophosphate insecticides and herbicides, classifying glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
On its own website, Bayer claims that there is an “extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 scientific studies and reviews submitted to U.S., European and other regulators in connection with the registration process, that confirm that glyphosate and our glyphosate-based formulated products can be used safely and are not carcinogenic.”
Bayer further asserts that the EPA, EFSA, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Joint Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR), and other regulatory authorities in Canada, Japan, Australia, Korea and elsewhere found glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
Monsanto: Profit Over Customer Health
As reported by the Guardian, revelations in the three trials that have already occurred included:
- A former company CEO admitted that Monsanto never conducted epidemiology studies for Roundup and its other formulations made with glyphosate, claiming practices were instead based on “sound science.”
- During the time Monsanto refused to conduct epidemiology studies, it spent as much as $17 million in a single year on public relations strategies (i.e., ghostwritten studies and op-eds) intended to discredit independent scientists who warned about Roundup.
- A paper published in a scientific journal in 2000 that concluded Roundup posed no health risk did not list any Monsanto employees as authors The paper was cited as a reference by regulators such as the EPA.
- In 2013, a Monsanto scientist emailed co-workers about a manuscript he wrote that he wanted to seem like it was authored by another academic so it would not appear to have come from Monsanto.
- Monsanto obtained the assistance of EPA officials to delay a review of glyphosate toxicity in 2015 by the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. This postponed the release of the public draft of the review, which found links between cancer and glyphosate, to three or four years after the date it should have originally been issued.
- Neither Monsanto nor the EPA warned consumers of a need to wear protective clothing despite Monsanto’s awareness of tests showing how easily Roundup chemicals can be absorbed into human skin.
- EPA scientists observed that mice dosed with glyphosate developing rare kidney tumors in the 1980s and said they demonstrated cancer risks for people. The EPA continued to claim, however, that glyphosate poses no cancer risk.
If you or your loved one has developed cancer or another illness because of Roundup, that you could be entitled to compensation for your condition. The stakes are too high for you and your family to handle a legal claim on your own.
Make sure that you contact the The Driscoll Firm, P.C. as soon as possible. We can set up an appointment to provide a complete, free evaluation of your case as soon as you call 800-900-7704 or contact us online. We serve clients on a contingency fee basis, which means that pay us nothing unless we obtain compensation for you.