On Monday, October 22, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos elected to uphold an August verdict against Monsanto, makers of the weed killer Roundup®, alleging the product can cause cancer. Monsanto, now owned by multinational pharmaceutical giant Bayer, was found liable for causing a former Northern California groundskeeper’s cancerous lesions by repeated, on-job exposure to Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate.
Originally, the California jury awarded the 46-year-old former groundskeeper a total of $289 Million, which included $250 Million in punitive damages and $39.25 Million in compensatory damages.
This week, the $250 Million in punitive damages were slashed by Judge Bolanos to match the compensatory amount of $39.25 Million. In her decision, Bolaos wrote that the punitive-to-compensatory damages must, by California law, be a 1-to-1 ratio.
Still a Win for Cancer Victims of Glyphosate
August’s award had marked a major public victory for people who had been injured by or gotten sick from Roundup’s key ingredient, glyphosate. For several years, many agricultural workers who were exposed to glyphosate on the job we’re getting sick and developing cancer. Some studies had shown that regular or excessive exposure to glyphosate was most likely carcinogenic to humans, and when a jury handed down a $289 Million award to a glyphosate victim, a change in the tide seemed to be taking place.
But for several weeks it seemed that the major, $289-Million award was in jeopardy. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Judge Bolanos had put forth the possibility that she could overturn nearly the entire damage award because there was not enough evidence to support that any Monsanto employee believed exposure to Roundup could cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Judge Bolanos’s decision to uphold the jury’s decision – in spite of the reduced punitive damages – shows that weed-killer cases against Monsanto (and Bayer) can be won with sufficient evidence of exposure.
Bayer Plans to Appeal… Again
Regardless of whether or not the California plaintiff and his legal team will accept the reduced damages of $78.5 Million, Bayer continues to reiterate its stance: that as far as Monsanto’s product is concerned, there has been no wrongdoing.
In a statement, Bayer spokesperson Christopher Loder said, “The Court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 Million is a step in the right direction.” As previously reported, Monsanto’s appeal will not be cheap, likely costing the company around $25 Million each year.
Bayer’s Loder continued: “We continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeals.”
Thousands of Similar Cases Now Await Their Turn
According to Bloomberg News, there are an additional 8,700 plaintiffs who allege that they too were injured by glyphosate, Roundup’s key ingredient. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), concluded that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen to humans.”
What will happen with the 8,700 cases that have yet to see trial remains to be seen, but if the next test trials, set for February 2019 in St. Louis and San Francisco, go anything like August’s, then Bayer – whose stock dropped a whopping 9 percent this week alone – is in for a very rude awakening.