One of Monsanto’s key products, Roundup, has been used for decades by farmers, agricultural workers, and lawn enthusiasts to control weeds. However, evidence has mounted over the years that the popular herbicide has been linked to cancer, specifically Non- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (“NHL”). On June 24, 2020, Bayer officially announced a settlement for the claims of many users who were diagnosed with NHL after using this product.
How is Using Roundup Potentially Harmful?
The key ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer is glyphosate, a synthetic compound that can be applied to the leaves of plants to selectively kill certain plants while allowing the desired ones to grow. It was patented by Monsanto in the United States in 1974, and Roundup was released to the public the same year. Two years later, farmers, gardeners, and homeowners in Canada also began to use Roundup. While some people claim that Roundup was one of the most game-changing products in the field of agriculture, others questioned whether exposure to glyphosate was safe for individuals using the product as well as the environment.
In 2015, after significant scientific research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen, finding a possible link between exposure to the chemical and cancer. Despite the designation as a probable human carcinogen, the Roundup label does not warn against the potential cancer risks associated with using this product. Some countries and various states have completely banned the use of Roundup.
Several Juries Found Monsanto Liable for Cancer Injuries Caused by Using Roundup
Despite Monsanto’s efforts to discount research suggesting its product has been linked to cancer, the company recently took a huge blow when a California jury ruled in favor of a plaintiff who was dying of NHL after his job as a groundskeeper exposed him to Roundup for decades. During the trial, Monsanto fought to keep the plaintiff’s experts from testifying, arguing that their scientific theories were unreliable. The judge disagreed and allowed the plaintiff’s experts to testify. After hearing the evidence, the jury awarded the plaintiff $289 million.
Since then, two California cities have vowed to stop using Roundup for their cities’ landscaping and more are considering similar action. The verdict in California has also opened the door for more lawsuits filed by people who were exposed to glyphosate. In Florida, a class action has already been filed against General Mills, whose foods are made with plants that were treated with Roundup, arguing that the company had a duty to warn consumers that food could contain glyphosate. In 2018, Bayer purchased Monsanto for $66 billion after two years of negotiation.
Monsanto Cancer Victim Wins $2 Billion Punitive Damage Award in California Jury Trial
In the third and largest verdict against Bayer, which purchased Monsanto in 2018, a California jury awarded a husband and wife $1 billion each in punitive damages after both the husband and wife were diagnosed with NHL. Although the punitive award will likely be reduced on appeal, the couple were also awarded $55 million in compensatory damages for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Like the other two successful jury verdicts against Monsanto, the couple filed suit alleging that Roundup weed killer was defectively designed and that Monsanto failed to include an adequate warning label. In a statement after the trial, the plaintiff, Mrs. Pilliod, said that she and her husband would not have used Roundup if they had been warned it may cause cancer, but “from their ads, we felt that Roundup was incredibly safe to use.”
The Pilliods used Roundup to kill weeds on their three properties approximately once a week, nine months out of the year. Their lawyer estimated that over three decades the couple had sprayed about 1,500 gallons of Roundup. Both Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod are currently in remission, but their trial had to be expedited due to the possibility of a recurrence and their shortened life expectancy.
Monsanto Announces Settlement in 2020
In an exciting turn of events, Monsanto officially announced it has entered a settlement agreement aggregating in $10.9 Billion. This represents a massive victory for the tens of thousands of claimants who have been diagnosed with NHL following Roundup exposure.
The settlement, which includes an estimated 95,000 cases, is extraordinarily complex as it incorporates agreements with 25 of the lead law firms representing Roundup victims. Morris Bart went on record with Susan Roesgen of WGNO to share his thoughts and some details of the case.
Outstanding Roundup Cases
However, the settlement does not necessarily mean an immediate end to all Roundup-based claims. It is estimated Monsanto may face as many as 25,000 remaining claims. Fortunately, part of the settlement fund is being set aside to handle future claims.