Published: Tue, May 14, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Monsanto must pay couple $2bn in largest verdict yet over cancer claims

Monsanto must pay couple $2bn in largest verdict yet over cancer claims

A U.S. jury ordered agribusiness giant Monsanto Co.to pay a combined A$2.05 billion (NZ$3.12 billion) to a couple who claimed the company's popular weed killer Roundup Ready caused their cancers. They were each awarded $1 billion in punitive damages and an additional $55 million in collective compensatory damages.

"The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances", the company said.

In a statement, Bayer said it was disappointed with the jury's decision and would appeal the verdict, which it argues was at odds with a recent US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review of glyphosate-based weedkillers.

"The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe", said their counsel, Brent Wisner. The couple has used the herbicide since the 1970s.

A federal jury in San Francisco previously ordered the weed killer maker to pay a man $80 million (NZ$121.7 million) and a San Francisco jury in August awarded $289 million (NZ$434 million) to a former greenskeeper, though a judge later reduced it.

It comes after a landmark court ruling in the United States saw Monsanto ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for causing a man's cancer.

It is the third case to go before a jury, according to the couple's lawyers.

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The six-member jury in San Francisco federal civil court unanimously concluded that glyphosate was a "substantial factor" in Sonoma resident Edwin Hardeman's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. "They took detailed notes, asked incredibly thoughtful questions and in the end, came to understand that the science shows there are serious health hazards associated with Roundup and that Monsanto did nothing to warn people about the risk".

A jury in San Francisco Superior Court in Oakland found the company liable after a seven-week trial - citing its active ingredient, glyphosate, as the underlying cause of the cancer.

The Pilliods allege the regular use of Roundup on their property between 1975 and 2011 caused them to develop cancers of the lymph system. Both are in remission but testified about lasting damage from the cancer. The company also said it would appeal that decision.

Plaintiffs in the litigation allege that Monsanto had known about the herbicide's cancer risk for decades, but failed to warn consumers and instead attempted to influence scientists and regulators to receive favorable assessments of its products.

The American Cancer Society lists glysophate as a "probable carcinogen", based on a 2015 finding that it is "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization.

FILE PHOTO: The Bayer AG logo sits on display at the headquarters in La Garenne-Colombes, near Paris, France, May 13, 2019.

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