A federal jury has found that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer was a “substantial factor” in a California man’s cancer, concluding the first phase of a closely watched bellwether trial.
Edwin Hardeman, 77, had use Roundup for nearly 30 years at residences in Gualala and Santa Rosa, California. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 and alleged that glyphosate in Monsanto’s popular weed killer was responsible for his illness.
Bayer, which recently acquired Monsanto, denied that Roundup played any part in Hardeman’s cancer, and asserted the disease could have been caused by his hepatitis C. However, Hardeman was cured of that ailment in 2006.
Hardeman’s lawsuit was the first to go to trial in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, where all federally-filed Roundup cancer claims are undergoing coordinated pretrial proceedings before a single judge. It was the second such case to go before a jury anywhere in the nation.
During the first phase of the trial, Hardeman’s lawyers had to convince jurors that Roundup played a significant role in his cancer. Many legal experts thought he was placed at a severe disadvantage, after U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria prohibited his lawyers from presenting evidence of Monsanto’s alleged corporate misconduct during the first part of the trial.
Nevertheless, the six-member jury unanimously found for Hardeman yesterday, following a month of testimony and five days of deliberations.
The second phase of Hardeman’s Roundup cancer trial will focus on damages. This time, he will be allowed to present evidence that Monsanto manipulated scientific research and intentionally downplayed glyphosate’s health risks.
Hardeman is seeking payment for medical bills and an unspecified amount of damages.
“We feel confident based on the evidence that a jury, when presented with all of the evidence, will see that Monsanto has committed 40 years of corporate malfeasance,” one of his attorneys said yesterday.
Bayer faces more than 11,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits in courts throughout the United States.
Around 800 are included in the multidistrict litigation underway in the Northern District of California. As a bellwether case, the Hardeman trial is expected to provide insight into how other juries might decide similar lawsuits.
The nation’s first Roundup lawsuit trial concluded last August, when a jury in San Francisco Superior Court awarded $289 million to a former groundskeeper with terminal cancer. However, the judge overseeing that case later reduced the judgment to $78 million, after finding that the jury’s punitive damage award exceeded California’s limits.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed killer, was designated a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015. Monsanto completely rejected those findings, however, and waged an aggressive campaign to discredit the IARC review.
Most recently, research published by “Mutation Research” suggested glyphosate exposure increased the risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by as much as 41%.