Monsanto has been held liable for the causing of cancer in a California man by a US federal jury which has ordered the company to cough up $80m in damages.
The ruling was passed by the court on Wednesday in which the company was held responsible for development of cancer and risks of cancer development from prolonged usage of its popular weedkiller Roundup. This is a first of its kind verdict by a US court of law and came come a huge blow for Monsanto as well as for its parent company, Bayer.
The company would contest the verdict, said a spokesperson of Bayer.
The herbicide was a “substantial factor” in causing the cancer of Edwin Hardeman, the jury in San Francisco had unanimously ruled in a verdict during an earlier phase of the trial.
The first allegations against Monsanto’s herbicide that prolonged use and exposure of the company’s glyphosate weedkiller was the reason of development of cancer in Hardeman, a 70-year-old Santa Rosa man, who was the first person to file such a law suit against the company. Hardeman developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) which is an immune system attacking cancer.
Questions and concerns about the potential health hazards of Roundup have been raised by the case which is being watched closely internationally. The case has also put to question the conduct of Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, even as it now faces a huge number of similar cases – which some say could be as high as 9,000, throughout the US.
The design of Roundup’s was “defective”, ruled the jury. There was also absence of sufficient warnings for cancer on the product and there was some very obvious neglect the part of Monsanto to warn Hardeman of the risks associated with the use of NHL, the jury also said. Monsanto was ordered by the jurors to pay $75 million in punitive damages to Hardeman, $5.6m in non-economic losses and $200,000 for past 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.”
In the federal court system, the Hardeman’s case is considered a “bellwether” trial. This verdict could set the way that the future of similar litigations and their settlements. The role of Roundup in causing terminal cancer in Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, was confirmed by a state jury in a historic verdict last year. The ruling also said that Monsanto had “acted with malice or oppression” and therefore ruled that t the company should pay a fine of $289m in damages to the plaintiff.
During the second part of the Hardeman’s trial, the focus was on examining whether or not Monsanto had, for years, tried to manipulate research, sway regulators and shape public opinion in relation to the user safety of its product.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)