A San Francisco, Calif. jury has ordered the manufacturer of Roundup weed killer to pay $80 million to a 70-year-old man, after determining the product was a “substantial factor” in his developing cancer.
Earlier this week, the jury sided in favour of Edward Hardeman, who filed a lawsuit against the herbicide’s manufacturer Monsanto, claiming the glyphosate-based product caused him to develope non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The Sonoma County resident previously testified he had been spraying Roundup for nearly 30 years on his 56-acre property, and often inhaling the product and feeling it on his hands.
The ruling concludes the second and final phase of the trial. In the first phase earlier this month, the jury unanimously agreed the use of Roundup contributed to Hardeman’s cancer diagnosis. The jury then reconvened to award Hardeman $75 million in punitive damages and approximately $5.2 million in compensatory damages.
“As demonstrated throughout trial, since Roundup’s inception over 40 years ago, Monsanto refuses to act responsibly,” Hardeman’s attorneys Aimee Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore said in a joint statement. “Today, the jury resoundingly held Monsanto accountable for its 40 years of corporate malfeasance and sent a message to Monsanto that it needs to change the way it does business.”
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), glyphosate has been used as a pesticide since the 1970s and is deemed to have “low toxicity” for humans.
However, glyphosate was classified as “probably carcinogenic” in 2015 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. A new study by University of Washington went on to reveal that exposure to the herbicide raises the risk of cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, by 41 per cent.
In Canada, 20 scientists were assigned by Health Canada to review the safety of glyphosate, which is an ingredient in 130 products sold nationally. In 2019, the government agency stood by their decision to deem the herbicide safe for use, so long as proper safety instructions are followed.
Hardeman’s lawsuit is just one of thousands against the company. In August 2018, a San Francisco jury awarded $289 million in damages to Dewayne “Lee” Johnson. The 46-year-old was diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after years of using Roundup. The damages were reduced by a judge to $78.5 million, but Monsanto is seeking appeal.
During the trial, Hardeman’s attorneys argued that Monsanto had scientific papers ghostwritten to cover up the health risks associated with their product.
In a post-verdict press conference, Moore elaborated on the claims telling reporters, “When you look at the internal documents from Monsanto it’s also clear that they knew that as well and they chose not to tell the American public and they chose not to tell the world that their product was dangerous. Today the jury held unanimously that that was wrong, it was deceitful, and it was malicious.”
In a statement, Monsanto’s parent company Bayer expressed their dismay over the jury’s ruling.
“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 read. “We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”