An $80 million verdict recently awarded to man who claimed Roundup herbicide caused his cancer was reduced to $25 million earlier this week, even though a federal judge in California agreed that Monsanto “deserved to be punished” for its “reprehensible conduct.”
Edward Hardeman, 77, had used Monsanto’s Roundup for more than 30 years before being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. Last March, a jury in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, unanimously found that the glyphosate-based herbicide was a “substantial factor” in his cancer and awarded Hardeman $5.27 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages.
In a ruling issued on Monday, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria refused Bayer AG’s request for a new trial and upheld Hardeman’s compensatory award. His decision to reduce punitive damages reflected U.S. Supreme Court precedents limiting such awards to a 4 to 1 ratio with compensatory damage. Nevertheless, Judge Chhabria said the jury acted reasonably in granting Hardeman punitive damages.
“That said, the evidence presented at trial about Monsanto’s behavior betrayed a lack of concern about the risk that its product might be carcinogenic,” he wrote. “Despite years of colorable claims in the scientific community that Roundup causes NHL, Monsanto presented minimal evidence suggesting that it was interested in getting to the bottom of those claims.”
Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, is currently defending more than 13,400 Roundup cancer lawsuits in courts throughout the United States. Hardeman’s was the second of three cases decided by juries over the past year, and the first heard in federal court.
The nation’s first Monsanto Roundup trial concluded last August, when a jury in San Francisco Superior Court awarded $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a former school district groundskeeper with terminal cancer. However, the trial judge later reduced the judgement to $78 million, after finding punitive damages exceeded California’s constitutional limits.
In May, a jury in Alameda County Superior Court awarded a total of $2 billion to an elderly married couple, both of whom developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following decades of Roundup use.