Monsanto’s Roundup® Found to Cause Cancer by Jury

The case of the plaintiff, Edwin Hardeman, went to trial in February 2019, in a San Francisco courtroom.  Mr. Hardeman’s case is the first of many cases involving plaintiffs claiming the widely-used weedkiller, Roundup®, developed by Monsanto (purchased by Bayer in 2016) causes non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and other types of cancer. The jury selected at Mr. Hardeman’s trial was asked to weigh a complicated question.  Did the weedkiller, Roundup®, and its main ingredient, glyphosate, caused his cancer? 

The jurors were asked to weigh the credibility of competing, scientific studies that probed into cell mutations, cancer epidemiology, and genotoxicity to determine whether Mr. Hardeman’s exposure to Roundup® caused his non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  They were presented with evidence and arguments from the plaintiff claiming that exposure to Roundup® was linked to certain types of cancer, while Monsanto/Bayer attempted to persuade the jury that Roundup® does not cause cancer in humans.

After looking at the evidence and weighing the arguments of the attorneys for both parties, they determined that Roundup® was a defective product, lacked sufficient warnings of the risks of using the product, and finally, that Monsanto was negligent in not warning the consumer of the carcinogenic risks of the use of Roundup®.

In a later phase of the trial, the jurors found that Monsanto/Bayer should be punished for its failure to warn the public of the carcinogenic risk of the use of Roundup® and awarded $75 million in punitive damages to Mr. Hardeman.  The judge later reduced that number to $20 million and Bayer has filed an appeal.

When it was originally marketed to the public, Monsanto/Bayer claimed Roundup® was not a health risk.  However, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, weighed the current scientific research and deemed glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup®, a “likely carcinogenic to humans.”  This increased regulatory scrutiny and a wave of litigation began against Monsanto/Bayer.

The first Roundup® cancer trial resulted in a $289.2 million verdict for a California resident and former school groundskeeper.  He blamed his non-Hodgkin Lymphoma on repeated exposure to two Monsanto/Bayer weedkillers containing glyphosate.  His jury found by unanimous vote that these products caused his cancer.  In October, the verdict was reduced by a California state judge to $78.5 million, which is also being appealed by Bayer.