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A jury on Monday ordered agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. to pay a combined $2.055 billion to a couple claiming that the company's popular weed killer Roundup Ready caused their cancers. The jury's verdict is the third such courtroom loss for Monsanto in California since August, but a San Francisco law professor said it's likely a trial judge or appellate court will significantly reduce the punitive damage award. The state court jury in Oakland concluded that Monsanto's weed killer caused the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Alva Pilliod and Alberta Pilliod each contracted.
SAN FRANCISCO — The Latest on $2 billion verdict against Monsanto (all times local):4 p.m.A law professor says it's likely a trial judge or appellate court will significantly reduce a Northern California jury's $2 billion punitive award against Monsanto Co.University of California, Hastings School of Law professor David Levine said the ratio between the $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages is too high. He said judges rarely allow punitive damages to exceed four times actual damages awarded and often reduce awards with even lower ratio.Alva and Alberta Pilliod claimed they used Roundup for more than 30 years to landscape their home and other properties. They were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.The California Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that any punitive damages exceeding 10 times the compensatory damages are likely unconstitutionally high. The state high court didn't propose a ratio it felt correct, but said punitive damages should almost never exceed nine times actual damages.___3:10 p.m.A jury ordered agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. to pay a combined $2.05 billion to a couple who claimed the company's popular weed killer Roundup Ready caused their cancers.The Oakland jury on Monday delivered Monsanto's third such loss in California since August.Alva and Alberta Pilliod claimed they used Roundup for more than 30 years to landscape their home and other properties. They were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.A federal jury in San Francisco previously ordered the weed killer maker to pay a man $80 million and a San Francisco jury in August awarded $289 million to a former greenskeeper, though a judge later reduced it.The trials were the first of an estimated 13,000 lawsuits against Monsanto.German chemical giant Bayer owns Monsanto and said it will appeal.The Associated Press
French prosecutors said on Friday they had opened an inquiry after newspaper Le Monde filed a complaint alleging that Monsanto - acquired by Bayer for $63 billion last year - had kept a file of 200 names, including journalists and lawmakers in hopes of influencing positions on pesticides. On Sunday, Bayer acknowledged the existence of the files, saying it does not believe any laws were broken but that it will ask an external law firm to investigate. "It's safe to say that other countries in Europe were affected by lists ... I assume that all EU member states could potentially be affected," Matthias Berninger, Bayer's head of public affairs and sustainability, told journalists on Monday.
The French prosecutor on Friday said it had opened a preliminary investigation into a suspected file assembled by Bayer's seed maker Monsanto to influence various personalities in France. The probe was opened after a complaint was filed by daily newspaper Le Monde. According to Le Monde and other French media, Monsanto built up a file of some 200 names that includes journalists and law makers in the hope of influencing their positions on pesticides.
Bayer's non-executive board reaffirmed its support for top management's decision to acquire seed maker Monsanto last year, after losing high-profile lawsuits to U.S. plaintiffs who claimed Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller caused their cancer. In documents posted on the company's website on Monday, the non-executive supervisory board said an expert opinion it commissioned from lawfirm Linklaters found that Bayer's management had complied with their duties when acquiring Monsanto for $63 billion last year. "The Supervisory Board extensively discussed this expert opinion and based on this also comes to the conclusion that the Board of Management acted in compliance with its duties," it said.
The second phase of the trial focused on claims that Monsanto quietly worked to control research and sway regulators about Roundup’s safety. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images A federal jury ruled that Monsanto was liable for a California man’s cancer and ordered the Roundup manufacturer to pay $80m in damages. The ruling on Wednesday, which holds the company responsible for the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, is the first of its kind in US federal court and a major blow to Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer. A spokesperson said Bayer would appeal. In a verdict during an earlier phase of the trial, the jury in San Francisco unanimously ruled that the herbicide was a “substantial factor” in causing the cancer of Edwin Hardeman. Edwin Hardeman, right, stands with attorney Aimee Wagstaff. Photograph: Jeff Chiu/AP Hardeman, a 70-year-old Santa Rosa man, was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s herbicide in a federal trial, alleging that his exposure to the glyphosate weedkiller caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system. The case has attracted international attention and raised new questions about the potential health hazards of Roundup. It also challenged the conduct of Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. The corporation is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US that allege Roundup has caused cancer. The jury ruled that Roundup’s design was “defective”, that the product lacked sufficient cancer warnings, and that Monsanto was negligent in its failure to warn Hardeman of the NHL risk. The jurors ordered the company to pay Hardeman $75m in punitive damages, $200,000 for past economic losses and $5.6m in non-economic losses. “As demonstrated throughout trial, since Roundup’s inception over 40 years ago, Monsanto refuses to act responsibly,” Hardeman’s lawyers said in a statement. “It is clear from Monsanto’s actions that it does not care whether Roundup causes cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about Roundup.” Hardeman’s case is considered a “bellwether” trial in the federal court system, meaning the verdict could have an impact on how future litigation and potential settlements are resolved. In a historic verdict last year, a state jury ruled that Roundup caused the terminal cancer of Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, and that Monsanto had “acted with malice or oppression” and owed the plaintiff $289m in damages. The second phase of Hardeman’s trial focused on allegations that Monsanto for years worked behind the scenes to control research, sway regulators and shape public opinion about the safety of its product. The case built on the Johnson trial, which alleged that Monsanto “bullied” scientists, fought to suppress damning research about Roundup and helped “ghostwrite” studies that encouraged continued usage. Aimee Wagstaff, Hardeman’s lawyer, told the jury that Monsanto had a “cozy relationship” with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees and had also paid “prestigious” scientists to author “favorable” studies: “Monsanto has influenced and manipulated the science through its relationships with regulatory officials and through ghostwriting.” Hardeman testified that he had sprayed the herbicide for nearly three decades and at one time got it on his skin, before he was diagnosed with cancer. He used the chemical to control weeds and poison oak on his properties, starting in 1986. He also said in court he would not have used the product if it had come with a cancer warning. Bayer has continued to argue that Roundup is safe to use, doesn’t cause cancer and does not require a label warning. The corporation’s attorney, Brian Stekloff, told the jury prior to the verdict that their decision should not be a “popularity contest” about the company: “Monsanto, consistent with the science, consistent with how the science was being viewed around the rest of the world, did act responsibly.” The company said in a statement on Wednesday that it was “disappointed” with the decision, but said the “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”. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC) ruled that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”, based on a review of existing research. The EPA, however, has deemed glyphosate safe for use. Hardeman’s legal team said the unanimous ruling made a strong statement about the company’s behavior over the years: “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.”
The decision in Edwin Hardeman’s case comes after a historic verdict last year that said Roundup caused another man’s terminal cancer. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty ImagesA federal jury in San Francisco found Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a substantial factor in causing the cancer of a California man, in a landmark verdict that could affect hundreds of other cases.Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s Roundup in a federal trial and alleged that his exposure to Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system.In the next phase of the case, the jury will weigh liability and damages, and Hardeman’s lawyers will present arguments about Monsanto’s influence on government regulators and cancer research.During the trial, the 70-year-old Santa Rosa man testified that he had sprayed the herbicide for nearly three decades and at one time got it on his skin before he was diagnosed with cancer. He used the chemical to control weeds and poison oak on his properties, starting in 1986.Hardeman’s case is considered a “bellwether” trial for hundreds of other plaintiffs in the US with similar claims, which means the verdict could affect future litigation and other cancer patients and families. Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US.The unanimous ruling on Tuesday follows a historic verdict last August in which a California jury in state court ruled that Roundup caused the terminal cancer of Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper. That jury said Monsanto failed to warn Johnson of Roundup’s health hazards and “acted with malice or oppression”, awarding Johnson $289m in damages.Hardeman’s trial has been more limited in scope. While Johnson’s attorneys argued that Monsanto had “bullied” scientists and fought to suppress negative studies about its product, the federal judge barred Hardeman’s lawyers from discussing Monsanto’s alleged influence on research and regulations during the hearings.The US judge Vince Chhabria went so far as to sanction Hardeman’s lawyer for bringing up Hardeman’s “personal history”, referring to internal Monsanto documents, and explaining the process behind various regulatory decisions about glyphosate in her opening remarks. With Hardeman’s trial limited to a strict discussion of whether Roundup exposure caused his cancer, his attorneys have argued they were facing a significant disadvantage.Monsanto has continued to argue that Roundup is safe to use and does not cause NHL.Although the judge restricted the first part of the trial to a limited discussion of Hardeman’s cancer, he issued something of a rebuke of the company in one procedural order last week, saying: “Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.”Bayer expects to prevail later in the trial, a spokesperson said following Tuesday’s ruling. “We are disappointed with the jury’s initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer”, spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement. “We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr Hardeman’s cancer”.Child also argued the decision would not impact future cases, “because each one has its own factual and legal circumstances”.Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff, Hardeman’s attorneys, said they were prepared to show the jury examples of Monsanto’s “bad conduct” in the next phase of the trial. “Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup”, they wrote in a statement.Environmental advocates were quick to celebrate the verdict. Ken Cook, the president of the Environmental Working Group, said the ruling supported previous conclusions that “glyphosate causes cancer in people”.“As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up”, he added.
Edwin Hardeman, right, with his wife Mary, is the first person to successfully bring a Roundup cancer case to trial in US federal court. Photograph: Jeff Chiu/APEdwin Hardeman, the first person to challenge Monsanto’s Roundup in a federal trial, testified Tuesday that he sprayed the herbicide for nearly three decades and got it on his skin before he was diagnosed with cancer.The 70-year-old Santa Rosa man has alleged that his exposure to Roundup, starting in 1986, when he began applying it to control weeds and poison oak on his properties, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system. In court on Tuesday, Hardeman explained that when he used Roundup, the world’s most popular herbicide, it would at times leak onto him as he sprayed it for several hours a day. Hardeman’s high-stakes case is considered a “bellwether” trial for hundreds of other plaintiffs in the US with similar claims, which means the jury verdict could affect future litigation and possible settlements. Monsanto, now owned by German pharmaceutical company Bayer, is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US.Hardeman is the second person to successfully bring a Roundup cancer case to trial and the first in US federal court. In an historic verdict last August, a California jury sided with Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper suffering from a terminal cancer, and ruled that Monsanto failed to warn Johnson of the health hazards from exposure to Roundup, had “acted with malice or oppression”, and was responsible for “negligent failure”. Monsanto was ordered to pay Johnson $289m in damages. Bayer, which appealed the Johnson ruling, suffered a 30% share drop after the groundbreaking verdict.In recent years, there has been growing scrutiny across the globe about the potential health impacts of glyphosate, the product sold under the Roundup brand.Hardeman said he frequently sprayed Roundup on his properties for about 28 years, first for three years at his home in the coastal town of Gualala and then for roughly 25 years in Santa Rosa, where there was a significant amount of poison oak on his 56-acre property.“It was a regular part of my maintenance,” said Hardeman, who demonstrated for the jury how he used a two-gallon sprayer, spraying above his head and toward the ground. He testified that he would often spray once a month for three to four hours at a time and that he and his wife never hired someone to help with the work: “I enjoyed doing it … I wanted to make sure I was going to get everything up to my own personal standards.”Sometimes the wind would cause the chemical to “blow back” on his skin, he said, adding that at times it felt as if he was breathing in the chemical.Hardeman said he stopped using Roundup in 2012. On Christmas Day of 2015, he discovered a swollen lymph node on his neck and the following year was officially diagnosed with NHL, he said.Unlike Johnson’s trial, which discussed claims that Monsanto worked to suppress damning research and mislead consumers about safety risks, Hardeman’s brief testimony this week did not include any discussions of Monsanto or his beliefs about what caused his cancer.US district judge Vince Chhabria ruled prior to the start of trial that the plaintiffs were barred from discussing Monsanto’s influence on government regulators and cancer research, restricting the arguments to scientific study and questions about whether Roundup caused Hardeman’s NHL.During opening remarks last week, Chhabria angrily scolded Hardeman’s attorney, Aimee Wagstaff, accusing her of “deliberately” violating his restrictions on subject matter with “incredibly dumb” comments. The judge threatened to “shut down” the attorney’s speech, said she was “very steely” in her response to his objections, and eventually sanctioned her $500 for “bad faith conduct”.The judge argued that Wagstaff “crossed the line” with multiple statements, including her discussions of Hardeman’s “personal history”, her reference to internal Monsanto documents, and her explanations of the process behind various regulatory decisions about glyphosate. Chhabria earlier ruled that if jurors decide that Monsanto caused Hardeman’s illness, the jury would learn about the company’s conduct when assessing liability and punitive damages in a second phase.Hardeman’s lawyers have said these limitations are significantly hurting their case. Wagstaff argued she was acting in good faith during her opening remarks and that there was “ambiguity” surrounding the judge’s orders.Monsanto has continued to argue that Roundup is safe and in this case has suggested Hardeman’s hepatitis C could be a possible cause of his cancer. Hardeman testified Tuesday that he was cured of his hepatitis in 2006, long before his NHL diagnosis.One of the plaintiff’s experts, pathologist Dennis Weisenburger, also testified about his research on NHL and cancer on Tuesday, saying: “When you get Roundup on your skin … it will penetrate the cells of the skin, it will get into the tissues, it will then get into the lymph system and into the blood.”He added: “My opinion is that to the best of medical certainty, I believe that Roundup is a substantial cause of cancer in people who are exposed to it in the workplace or in the environment.”Hardeman’s team has presented testimony from his doctors, along with a range of experts who have discussed in detail the research linking NHL to glyphosate.Monsanto is expected to start calling its witnesses later this week.
The lawyers, who did not wish to be named as the decision was not public, did not disclose the terms of the arbitration ruling. Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) (MMB), a joint venture between Missouri-based Monsanto and India's Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco), "has received a favorable award from the arbitration panel in the proceedings against NSL and Prabhat", a Bayer spokesman said in an e-mailed statement when asked about the ruling.
Paul Francois, who says he fell ill after inhaling vapor from weedkiller Lasso in 2004, won rulings in 2012 and 2015 that found Monsanto liable for the intoxication, before France's top court overturned those decisions and ordered a new hearing. An appeal court in the southeastern French city of Lyon will hear arguments on Wednesday before giving its verdict at a later date. Francois, who says he has suffered memory loss, headaches and stammering, blames Monsanto for not giving sufficient warnings on the product label.
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Monsanto can claim patents on its genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds, a victory for the U.S. company that is expected to encourage biotechnology firms to step up investment in the country. The decision on appeal overturns an earlier ruling by the Delhi High Court that Monsanto - the world's biggest seed maker, which has been bought by Germany's Bayer AG - could not claim patents on GM cotton seeds.