Monsanto Ordered to Pay $2 Billion After Third Roundup Lawsuit Loss
Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer has been at the center of controversy for decades. Cancer patients blame their diagnoses on Roundup. Monsanto and the EPA are adamant the pesticide is safe for human health. The parties have asked courts to decide.
Three Roundup injury lawsuits have been resolved. All three juries have returned verdicts in favor of the cancer patient plaintiffs. The most recent jury ordered Monsanto to pay more than $2 billion in damages.
Husband, Wife Both Developed Cancer After Roundup Exposure
The third Roundup injury lawsuit to go to trial focused on the claims of a husband and wife. Alva Pilliod was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 2011. His wife, Alberta Pilliod, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015. The odds of both spouses getting this type of cancer was 1 in 20,000.
There had to be some explanation for this very unlikely turn of events. That explanation, they believed, was Roundup. The couple used the pesticide on their property regularly, beginning in the 1970s when it first hit the market. They promptly filed a lawsuit, claiming:
- Glyphosate causes cancer
- Monsanto knew about the link between glyphosate and cancer
- The company marketed the pesticide without adequate warnings
- The company intentionally misled the public about the dangers of Roundup.
A California jury was asked to consider the couple’s case.
Jury Considers Evidence of Causation, Liability
The California jury in the third Roundup trial was presented with arguments, testimony, and evidence for 17 days. During that time, both parties had the opportunity to make their case. Monsanto presented evidence to persuade the jury to believe that glyphosate is safe for human health. It primarily relied on studies released by United States governmental agencies, including the EPA. Any other studies, the company claimed, were faulty and inaccurate.
The plaintiffs, on the other hand, presented the jury with several studies conducted by government agencies and private organizations around the globe. The results of these studies all suggested in one way or another that glyphosate is associated with an increased risk of cancer. In other words, these studies reveal that you’re more likely to develop cancer when you’re exposed to Roundup.
The plaintiffs didn’t stop there. They also introduced evidence, including some of Monsanto’s own internal documents and correspondence, which revealed the company’s decades-long misinformation campaign. Among other things, the evidence showed that Monsanto:
- Intentionally misled public opinion about Roundup
- Funded and influenced scientific studies to support its own agenda
- Prioritized profit over consumer and public health
- Colluded with the EPA and government representatives to downplay the risks of glyphosate, and
- Encouraged its own employees to wear extensive safety equipment when handling Roundup, but did not pass those same suggestions along to Roundup consumers.
The purpose of this evidence was to not only establish liability for the plaintiffs’ cancer diagnoses but also to show that Monsanto had engaged in malicious conduct. Malicious conduct can be grounds for punitive awards.
Jury Awards Husband and Wife Each $1 Billion in Punitive Damages
During closing arguments, the plaintiffs’ attorney encouraged the jury to consider punitive damages. Specifically, he advised sending the company a message by awarding $1 billion to the husband and $1 billion to the wife. After deliberating for less than two days, the jury ultimately took the attorney’s suggestion. The verdict included $55 million in compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages.