An extraordinarily high compensation amount, most of which was awarded in punitive damages, was hailed by the two plaintiffs’ attorney as “a message to the chemical giant”. Monsanto’s representatives denounce the verdict as unjustified and plan to appeal it.
Until May 13, 2019, few common denominators, if any, could likely be found between a small country in Central America, a modern military airplane, and a Monsanto lawsuit. Then, a jury in Oakland, California, awarded Alva and Alberta Pilliod a staggering $2.055 billion in damages for cancer allegedly caused by Roundup – Monsanto’s flagship weedkiller. If you find this amount of money difficult to visualize, 2 billion dollars is, roughly speaking, the annual GDP of Belize or the approximate total production cost of a B-2 stealth bomber.
Alva and Alberta Pilliod, now 74 and 76 years old, developed a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a dangerous cancer of the lymphatic system – in 2011 and 2015 respectively. The attorneys representing Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod in the lawsuit against Monsanto maintained that the couple developed cancer as a direct consequence of decades’ of Roundup use. According to the Pilliods’ representatives, Monsanto irresponsibly put the couple at risk of suffering dangerous side effects not only due to the herbicide’s toxicity but also because of the lack of appropriate safety warnings. The lawyers also maintained that the unusually high compensation amount – $1 billion in punitive damages for each of the plaintiffs apart from the compensatory damages – was fully justified as it would “send a message to the chemical giant”.
Whether Monsanto will take that message or not remains to be seen. For now, the representatives of Bayer – a German pharmaceutical giant who acquired Monsanto in June last year – maintain their position that “there is no reliable scientific evidence” to justify the link between Roundup use and the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In an interview, a Bayer spokesman said that the company believed the verdict to be “excessive and unjustifiable” and that it would be appealed.
More Trials Underway
While the $2 billion verdict reached by the jury in state court in Alameda County is extraordinarily high, it is not the first high-profile case against Monsanto. In fact, in the last 9 months, the company known for pioneering the development and commercialization of GMO grains has faced 3 unfavorable judgments related to Roundup toxicity. In March, Monsanto was ordered to pay $80 million to Edwin Hardeman from Sonoma County, CA while last August, a former school groundskeeper was awarded $289 million by a jury at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California (the verdict was later reduced by a judge to $78 million).
Notably, in all three cases, the plaintiffs alleged that they had developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of Roundup toxicity. These three lawsuits are considered to be important test cases since Monsanto is facing an estimated 13,000 lawsuits pending in courts across the country regarding the company’s flagship herbicide.
Why Is Roundup Controversial?
Monsanto, an American agricultural company whose beginnings date back to the early 20th century, developed Roundup in the mid-1970s. The herbicide, whose main ingredient is a chemical agent called glyphosate, was sold to farmers along with different kinds of crops that were genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide. These crops were marketed as “Roundup-ready”, meaning that they were able to withstand large quantities of glyphosate without negative consequence to the yield or quality.
However, the company failed to warn consumers about potential risks and side-effects that the herbicide can cause in humans. Notably, glyphosate is associated with the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as other negative consequences for the environment such as colony collapse disorder affecting the bee population around the world. Due to such allegations, Roundup is currently banned in a number of countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Sweden, Italy, Portugal or Spain.
If you have been exposed to Roundup for a number of years and have developed a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, you may qualify for a lawsuit against Monsanto and financial compensation for your injuries. In such a case, a consultation with a qualified attorney will help you to better understand your legal options.