If Roundup is safe, drink it. That was the message that one California juror wanted to send Bayer AG in issuing a shocking $2.055 billion verdict on behalf of a man and his wife claiming Roundup caused their cancer. The May 13 verdict represented the third consecutive plaintiff victory and the largest monetary damages issued to-date in the increasingly high profile litigation centered on one of the world’s most popular weed killers.
The verdict includes $55 million in compensatory damages to plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilloid and $2 billion in punitive damages. The couple claimed they had used Roundup on their properties for decades and that extended exposure eventually caused them to develop rare forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The Pilloids are currently in remission, but each suffered brain damage and other lasting injuries from their battles with NHL.
The trial focused on the key question of whether Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is a carcinogen. Glyphosate was first found to be an effective herbicide in 1970 and was introduced to the market in 1974 by Monsanto under the name brand Roundup. Monsanto was acquired by Bayer AG in 2016.
Plaintiffs alleged that the product’s initial approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was based off of fraudulent studies conducted by Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories. The studies were later invalidated by the EPA after IBT was found to have falsified its data. However, the EPA continued to cite the IBT study as recently as 2016 in its efforts to maintain that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.
The EPA’s close relationship with Monsanto was heavily scrutinized by the plaintiffs, who produced internal Monsanto e-mails that suggest an EPA official had offered to kill another government agency’s review of the safety of glyphosate. That review, conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry, was completed earlier this year and concluded that “multiple studies” have found an increased risk of NHL after use of Roundup.
The plaintiffs also produced evidence that a Monsanto executive had discussed ghost writing a study to combat a 2015 announcement by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The IARC report relied on evidence from studies that found glyphosate can damage DNA, which can lead to the development of cancer. The report also analyzed studies that found increased rates of malignant tumors in mice and rates that were exposed to glyphosate. Many of the tumors were linked to rare types of cancer that typically don’t occur by themselves. These studies were also used by the Pilloids to show how exposure to glyphosate can cause cancer.
Perhaps the most damaging testimony came from plaintiffs’ toxicology expert, Dr. William Sawyer, who argued that Monsanto made glyphosate up to 50 times more toxic by selling Roundup that contained a surfactant called polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA). Dr. Sawyer told the jury that POEA can allow glyphosate to easily penetrate the skin, and from there the body can store it under the skin and transfer doses of the chemical to bones, where NHL develops, for up to a week.
Despite the massive verdict, Bayer AG continues to maintain that Roundup is safe and plans on appealing the decision. The company has consistently pointed to findings by the EPA, the European Chemicals Agency, and other world health bodies that use of Roundup is not linked to cancer. However, three California juries have now disagreed with Bayer’s arguments to the tune of $289 million last August, $80 million in March 2019, and now $2.055 billion.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup, contact the Minnesota Cancer Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw. With over 30 years of experience litigating complex cancer cases, we deliver the Gold standard advocacy you deserve.