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CASE UPDATE: California Judge Reduces Punitive Damages in Roundup Case July 15, 2019 - Following a March 2019 verdict that awarded $80 million in punitive damages to a plaintiff, a U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria reduced the damages awarded to $25 million stating the company's failure to warn of the risks of Roundup was "reprehensible", but the amount awarded was "unreasonably high". "The jury's punitive damages award was approximately 15 times the size of the compensatory damages award," the judge said. "Monsanto's conduct, while reprehensible, does not warrant a ratio of that magnitude, particularly in the absence of evidence showing intentional concealment of a known or obvious safety risk." The case was the third to go to trial out of approximately 13,400 pending cases.
A 2015 report from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) bridged the potential link between the chemical component, glyphosate, and cancer. The report referenced studies that showed that there was “sufficient evidence” glyphosate causes cancer in animals as well as damaging effects on human cells.
Recent studies suggest that the popular Roundup weedkiller could be deadly to more than just unwanted plants. In relation to these studies and IARC’s findings, lawsuits were filed against Roundup manufacturer, Monsanto. The Roundup lawsuit claims that exposure to a chemical component of the herbicide, glyphosate, causes Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Glyphosate, a common agent in herbicides, targets specific enzymes in weeds to eradicate them without damaging other plants. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s Roundup weed killer.
On a yearly average, American farmers spray nearly a pound of glyphosate on every acre of cropland. Farmers and landscapers who use Roundup regularly are often exposed to high levels of glyphosate.
Because of the herbicides popularity in the agricultural industry, trace amounts of glyphosate have been found in corn, soy, and wheat-based products. Alarmingly, the chemical has also been detected in human urine samples and women’s breast milk.
Monsanto claims that the chemical is completely harmless to humans, citing years of in-house studies conducted on glyphosate. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has backed up Monsanto’s claim, citing their own findings which show no link between glyphosate and increased risk of cancer for humans.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s long-standing position is that glyphosate exposure and low-level consumption does not pose any risk to humans. According to their website, Monsanto supports these claims with their own in-house studies, which have found glyphosate to be “more than 10 times less toxic than caffeine.”
Despite Monsanto’s statements, a number of U.S. agricultural workers and landscapers are currently suing Monsanto, claiming that by using Roundup they were exposed to high levels of glyphosate which caused them to develop Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Monsanto stands by their safety claims, stating “in more than 700 studies, no one has associated cancer with the use of glyphosate.”
However, information obtained through the first cases against Monsanto shows that the EPA reports are likely compromised.
Within the documents lies a chain of Monsanto internal emails, and email communications between the company and EPA staff, suggesting that the EPA research had been ghostwritten by Monsanto, and later signed off by EPA academics. In one such email, Monsanto executive William F. Heydens wrote, “we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they [EPA] would just edit & sign their names so to speak.” There is also evidence that one EPA senior official had worked directly with Monsanto directors to put a halt to further investigations by other federal health agencies into the potential adverse effects of glyphosate. Other documents indicate that an EPA senior officials had worked with Monsanto to hide a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study reviewing glyphosate, which suggested the herbicide could be a carcinogen. A series of EPA internal emails revealed a great level of dispute among employees about the safety of glyphosate.
Even within the EPA, there seems to be a polarizing disagreement of whether glyphosate is hazardous for humans. The agency is currently conducting a scheduled evaluation of the chemical though there is no indication of when the results of the evaluation will be published.
Roundup weed killers have been banned in the Netherlands, France, Bermuda, Columbia, Sri Lanka, and recently, in Vietnam. On April 11, 2019, Vietnam removed herbicides containing glyphosate from the market because of the damaging effects it has on the environment and severe health consequences for the population.
“The decision to remove herbicides containing glyphosate from the list of plant protection chemicals permitted for use in Vietnam is in accordance with the current law, international regulations and in line with Vietnam’s socio-economic conditions,” Hoang Trung, head of the Plant Protection Department under Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said in the statement.
The herbicide is Monsanto’s flagship product. Being sold internationally for both mass agricultural purposes and as an at-home gardening applicant, it is the most widely used herbicide in the world.
There are currently more than 700 lawsuits filed against Monsanto related to Roundup weedkillers. The people claiming injuries are made up of agricultural laborers, lawn care workers, and gardeners who have developed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma because of their high levels of exposure to glyphosate.
Monsanto continues to assert that Roundoff is safe for consumers.
In December 2016, the EPA constructed a panel to review the possible health effects of glyphosate. The panel consisted of 15 outside experts: academics, federal scientists, and chemical industry consultants. The review was not a consequence of the lawsuits, but rather the EPA is required to review health-effects for every pesticide once every 15 years. Glyphosate had not been reviewed since 1991. At that time, the EPA determined that the herbicide did not pose a threat to consumers.
In a puzzling move, the December conference began with the Chief of the Office of Pesticides Programs, Jack Housenger, laying out an array of evidence – in the form of a 227-page issue paper –explaining why glyphosate is an unlikely carcinogen. Housenger then requested the panel review the analysis.
More than half of the expert panelists were concerned with the EPA’s findings.
During the conference, panelist Eric Johnson, an epidemiologist at the University of Arkansas, expressed his concerns. Johnson said that if any study suggested a positive connection between glyphosate and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, the EPA would quickly minimize the findings, citing alleged flaws in the study. Panelist Lianne Sheppard, a biostatistician at the University of Washington-Seattle, explained that there was a “consensus” on the panel that “the available evidence did not fit with the conclusions drawn in the issue paper, particularly when put in the context of guidelines.”
Three of the experts even expressed concern regarding the Office of Pesticides Programs’ integrity and ability to conduct unbiased studies.
These concerns are genuine.
In 2016, approximately 30% of the Office of Pesticides Programs operating budget was funded by the pesticide manufacturing industry. The office relies on studies and tests conducted by the pesticide manufacturers for much of their data.
After the conference, the EPA publicly released the issue paper. By law, the EPA had to include any concerns expressed by the panelists. Using ambiguous language and vague information, the EPA downplayed the severity of the panel’s concerns.
When a majority of the panelists disagreed with the EPA’s findings, the release paper would simply state “some panelists expressed doubt.” If the panelists denied the data, the release would only explain that “panelists had some concerns.”
The issue paper did not distinguish how many or which panelists were concerned with which specific data sets.
Following the conference, a group of environmental health scientists came together to voice their concerns in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The researchers argued that more unbiased safety reviews of glyphosate are needed for market approval. “It is incongruous that safety assessments of the most widely used herbicide on the planet rely largely on fewer than 300 unpublished, non-peer reviewed studies while excluding the vast modern literature on glyphosate effects,” the study’s authors write.
On July 7, California was the first state to list glyphosate as a known carcinogen, contrasting the EPA’s federal approval of the herbicide.
The chances of a federal glyphosate ban are slim. The 2016 election cycle brought a change in bureaucratic leadership, including a new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt.
Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. During his tenure as Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA on 13 separate occasions, all of which were attempts to end federal regulations on behalf of corporations. Since taking over the EPA, Pruitt has already reversed a ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide similar to glyphosate, which is believed to cause brain damage in agricultural workers and children. A national group of pediatricians said that they were “deeply alarmed by EPA’s decision not to finalize the proposed rule to end chlorpyrifos uses on food,” saying it puts children at significant risk. Despite this, Pruitt took the side of chlorpyrifos manufacturer, DOW Chemical, arguing that the data did not directly link chlorpyrifos exposure to brain damage.
Pruitt is in a position now to decide whether to increase regulations on or completely ban glyphosate. Based on Pruitt’s past history and aggressive attitude towards deregulation, it is unlikely that the new EPA administrator will go against corporate interest.
A lot rides on the EPA’s market approval of glyphosate.
Last September, Bayer AG agreed to buy Monsanto for $66 billion, pending regulatory approvals.
Since 2015, Monsanto has spent more than $10.3 million in lobbying, developing advantageous relationships with political heads and bureaucrats that control agricultural policies and regulations. With political influence and financial power, as well as a new EPA head administrator favoring environmental deregulation, there is little to hinder Monsanto’s merger with Bayer AG. The corporate giant will see to it that Roundup stays on the market, even if it is at the expense of the thousands of agricultural workers who are exposed to its dangerous product every day.
As research on the effects of glyphosate continues to indicate that the chemical is a carcinogen, more products liability Roundup lawsuit cases will be filed across federal and state courts. Federal multidistrict litigation is proceeding under the direction of U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria. The first bellwether trial is currently underway. During the trial, Judge Chhabria made the following comment relating to Monsanto’s carelessness.
“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,” Judge Chhabria said.
Participation is not limited to just farm workers. Any individual who has been consistently exposed to Roundup weedkiller may be eligible to participate in a Roundup lawsuit.
If you have been exposed to Roundup weed killers and have developed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, contact a knowledgeable Roundup injury lawyer to explore your options.
TorHoerman Law offers free, no-obligation case consultations for any potential Roundup lawsuit case. Call today to speak to an experienced Roundup injury lawyer from our law firm.
May 13, 2019 - A California jury awarded more than $2 million to a California couple, making it the third straight loss for Bayer. The jury found that Roundup was a substantial factor in causing the couple's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. According to Bloomberg, the verdict is "the largest jury award in the United States so far this year and the eighth-largest ever in a product-defect claim." There are currently 13,400 cases pending that allege Roundup causes cancer.
March 27, 2019 - For the second time in eight months, a jury has found that Monsanto's weed killer, Roundup, has caused a man's non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Plaintiff, Edward Hardeman, was awarded $80 million in damages. The jury found that not only did Roundup cause his cancer, but Monsanto knew about the carcinogenic risks and failed to warn the public. The verdict announced concludes the two-part trial which alleged Roundup caused the plaintiff to develop non-Hodgkins lymphoma, an adverse effect of long-term exposure to Roundup that Monsanto was apparently aware, despite safety warnings or transparency with their consumers. For more than three decades, Hardeman maintained his 56-acre property in Santa Rosa with Roundup weed killer. Hardeman's bellwether trial was the first of hundreds of similar cases currently pending in California's Northern District. During the first phase of the trial, the jury found that Roundup was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's cancer. In the second phase of the trial, after hearing prosecutorial claims that Monsanto deliberately withheld or ignored warnings linking Roundup to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the jury found Monsanto liable for damages incurred by Hardeman. Hardeman was awarded $201,000 in economic damages, approximately $5 million in future and past noneconomic damages, and $75 million in punitive damages. "As demonstrated throughout the trial, since Roundup’s inception over 40 years ago, Monsanto refuses to act responsibly," Hardeman's attorneys Aimee Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore said in a joint statement. "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 next case to go to trial is scheduled for March 28 in the Oakland, CA state court. A second bellwether in the federal multi-district litigation (MDL) is scheduled to begin in mid-May.
March 19, 2019 - A federal jury determined that Monsanto's Roundup, a popular weedkiller, contributed to a California man's cancer. The verdict completed the first phase of a two-part case. The second phase will focus on whether Monsanto can be held liable for partly causing the man's cancer. The plaintiff's lawyers will aim to prove Monsanto knew about the risks and deliberately manipulating data and public opinion. The two-part case will likely set a precedent for about 11,200 similar cases alleging Monsanto's Roundup causes cancer.
February 2019 - Monsanto faces at least 9,300 lawsuits across the county as a result of its Roundup cancer-causing ingredients. While a September 2018 trial resulted in a $289 million verdict, this amount was reduced posttrial to $78.5 million. We are hopeful that the first trial in St. Louis County, Missouri will commence this year.
February 14, 2019 - An encompassing new scientific analysis of the chemical glyphosate has found that people with high levels of exposure to the herbicide have a 41% increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Glyphosate is the most commonly used base-agent in weedkilling products worldwide. The analysis consists of finding by five US scientists. These scientists’ findings directly contradict the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) previously research, which has found glyphosate to be a non-carcinogenic agent. The independence of the EPA’s research has been brought into question and is under review. However, a 2015 study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. According to the analysis, the evidence “supports a compelling link” between exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides and increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. New regulations limiting the use of glyphosate are currently being considered by regulators in numerous countries. Domestically, there are more than 9,000 lawsuits filed against Monsanto – a company that produces glyphosate-based Roundup weed-killer – on behalf of individuals who were exposed to Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In August, a unanimous jury decision found in favor of the first plaintiff to go to trial in a Roundup lawsuit. The second trial is scheduled to begin in late February. Monsanto contends that the EPA’s findings were accurate and that other research linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma was conducted improperly and failed to consider the findings of similar studies.
October 22, 2018 - San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos upheld a previous verdict awarded to the retired groundskeeper, DeWayne "Lee" Johnson, noting that it was reasonable for the jury to conclude that Monsanto acted with malice by continuing to market and sell a dangerous product without warning. However, punitive damages were reduced to $39.25 million, taking the total award of $78.5 million. Monsanto continues to deny the link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
September 24, 2018 - Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have found that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, damages the good gut bacteria that honeybees need to fight deadly infections. The chemical may be contributing to the decline in bee populations, along with the loss of habitat. "We demonstrated that the abundances of dominant gut microbiota species are decreased in bees exposed to glyphosate at concentrations documented in the environment," said Erick Motta and colleagues from the University of Texas at Austin in their new paper.
August 10, 2018 - In a landmark Roundup cancer trial, a jury found that Monsanto's herbicides contributed to a school groundskeeper's terminal cancer and failed to warn consumers of the dangers. Monsanto was ordered to pay a total of $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The case, which was tried in San Francisco, California, involved a school's groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who regularly sprayed fields with Roundup. At the trial, the jury deliberated for two and a half days before deciding that Glyphosate, the main chemical in Roundup, contributed to his cancer. This case was able to go to trial sooner than most because, in California, dying plaintiffs can be granted expedited trials. Although Monsanto is expected to appeal the decision, hundreds of pending lawsuits continue to move forward.
July 10, 2018 – During pretrial proceedings, a Federal Judge of California ruled in favor of plaintiffs accusing Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer of being a carcinogenic agent, issuing an order to deny Monsanto’s requests to dismiss the lawsuit. The Honorable Vince Chhabria, of the United States District Court of Northern California, found that there was significant scientific evidence linking Monsanto’s weed killer to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Judge Chhabria’s order will allow for a testimony to be presented to future juries that Roundup can cause Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This ruling will affect the thousands of plaintiffs involved in Roundup lawsuits filed nationwide, which have been consolidated before Judge Chhabria in In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 2741). In his written ruling, Judge Chhabria established that the scientific analysis cited by the plaintiffs was founded upon sound scientific principles. Pretrial proceedings are set to continue on schedule.
April 19, 2018 - California became the first state to list glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, as a known carcinogen. In 2015, California announced its' decision to list the chemical as a known carcinogen, but Monsanto challenged the decision in court, which the company inevitably lost in appellate court on Thursday.
2017 - TorHoerman Law partnered with the law firm Andrus Wagstaff Law to fight against Monsanto for exposing individuals to the potentially deadly chemical in Roundup weedkillers. Most recently, the two firms filed a lawsuit against Monsanto in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. The lawsuit alleges that 76 plaintiffs developed Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma as a result of exposure to Roundup weed killers.
Amarelo, Monica. "Jury Slams Monsanto for Corporate Malfeasance in Roundup Cancer Trial, Awards $80 Million in Damages." EWG, Environmental Working Group, 27 Mar. 2019, www.ewg.org/release/second-time-8-months-bayer-monsanto-s-roundup-liable-cancer-lawsuit
Baer, Stephanie K. "A Jury Says Monsanto's Weed Killer Caused A Man's Cancer And Awarded Him $80 Million." BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 27 Mar. 2019, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/skbaer/hardeman-roundup-cancer-damages
Bellon, Tina. "California Jury Says Bayer Must Pay $2 Billion to Couple in Roundup Cancer Trial." Stltoday.com, Reuters, 13 May 2019, www.stltoday.com/business/local/california-jury-says-bayer-must-pay-billion-to-couple-in/article_88180ff7-79ad-5c10-8ee1-46ecfddf2789.html.
Polansek, Tom, and Khanh Vu. "U.S. Criticizes Vietnam Ban of Glyphosate Herbicide Imports." Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 11 Apr. 2019, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-vietnam-glyphosate/us-criticizes-vietnam-ban-of-glyphosate-herbicide-imports-idUSKCN1RN2F4
Zaveri, Mihir. "Monsanto Weedkiller Roundup Was 'Substantial Factor' in Causing Man's Cancer, Jury Says." The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Mar. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/03/19/business/monsanto-roundup-cancer.html
Last Modified: August 15th, 2019 @ 11:18 am
If you worked with or have been consistently exposed to Roundup and have since been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you may be eligible to file a Roundup lawsuit. A number of lawsuits have already been filed on behalf of individuals against Roundup manufacturer, Monsanto, claiming that the company failed to warn consumers that their staple weed killer product may be a carcinogen.
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