Monsanto loses $2B Verdict in Third Roundup Trial

Married Couple both have Lymphoma

(May 13, 2019) Monsanto lost the third Roundup trial in dramatic fashion today when a California jury found that the company’s Roundup likely caused a married couple to both develop a similar cancer. The jury awarded the two $2.055 billion in damages. It was Monsanto’s third straight loss in three trials. Some 13,400 Roundup cancer lawsuits are still pending against Monsanto. All the cases allege that Roundup causes cancer.

The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for nearly two days before finding that Roundup was a significant contributing factor in causing Alva and Alberta Pilliod to develop a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The jury awarded the pair $55 million in non-economic and economic damages, then hit Monsanto with $1 billion in punitive damages for each person.

Punitive Damages

In ordering punitive damages, the jury had to find that Monsanto “engaged in conduct with malice, oppression or fraud committed by one or more officers, directors or managing agents of Monsanto” acting on behalf of Monsanto.  The total of $2.055 billion doubled what the plaintiffs’ attorney suggested in his closing arguments.

During the five-week trial, the Pilliods’ claimed that decades of spraying Roundup on their four properties gave them both diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.  Alva Pilliod was diagnosed with DLBCL in 2011. His wife Alberta was diagnosed in 2015 with a type of DLBCL called primary central nervous system lymphoma.

The jury heard testimony from competing oncologists, pathologists and toxicologists from each side. Different experts gave different opinions over Roundup’s skin absorption rates and the science regarding claims that Roundup causes cancer.

The Pilliods’ experts pointed to animal studies, mechanistic data and epidemiological data that showed glyphosate is genotoxic, or DNA damaging. They offered evidence that Roundup causes oxidative stress which can cause cancer mutations. They also cited the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2015 finding that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.

Glyphosate vs. Roundup
The Pilliods’ expert toxicologist, Dr. William Sawyer, testified that Monsanto made glyphosate 50 times more toxic by selling its Roundup formula with polyethoxylated tallow amine – or POEA –a surfactant banned in Europe. Dr. Sawyer explained that the surfactants allow glyphosate to easily penetrate the skin, just as they are designed to penetrate plants.

Dr. Sawyer said the body stores POEA under the skin for days and delivers glyphosate doses to the bones, where lymphoma starts. He also accused Monsanto of manipulating its absorption studies by heating and then freezing skin samples before testing them, a process which leads to skewed results.

US EPA used Fraudulent Data
Other experts called by the Pilliods testified that the U.S EPA approved Roundup in the 1970s using fraudulent studies. Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories, which was convicted of fraud, performed the studies later proved to be fraudulent, but EPA allowed the ruse to continue anyway. They said Monsanto kept selling Roundup even after the fraud was exposed, and refused for decades to conduct certain studies of its own Roundup formula, despite requests from the EPA and its own toxicologist.

The Pilliods’ counsel also argued in closing that Monsanto spent decades suppressing science linking its products to cancer by ghostwriting academic articles and feeding the EPA “bad science.”  He asked the jury to “punish” Monsanto with a $1 billion punitive damages award.

Carey Gilliam of U.S. Right To Know reported that the trial showed:

* Monsanto never conducted epidemiology studies for Roundup and its other formulations made with glyphosate to evaluate users’ cancer risks.

* Monsanto was aware surfactants in Roundup were much more toxic than glyphosate alone.

* Monsanto spent millions of dollars on covert public relations campaigns to finance ghostwritten studies and articles aimed at discrediting independent scientists whose work found dangers with Monsanto’s herbicides.

* When the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry sought to evaluate glyphosate toxicity in 2015, Monsanto engaged the assistance of EPA officials to delay that review.

* Monsanto enjoyed a close relationship with certain EPA officials who repeatedly backed Monsanto’s assertions about glyphosate’s alleged safety.

* Monsanto’s worker safety recommendations called for wearing a load of protective gear when using glyphosate but did not warn the public to do the same.

Monsanto Rebuttal

Monsanto’s experts argued that the epidemiological data put forward by the decades-long Agricultural Health Study shows that glyphosate doesn’t pose a cancer risk. Monsanto lawyers argued that several regulatory agencies around the world, including the US EPA, Health Canada, and the Australian government have repeatedly concluded Roundup doesn’t pose a cancer risk. They also noted that the rate of non-Hodgkin lymphoma has plateaued over the past two decades, while Roundup use has increased. They argued that if the plaintiffs’ side were correct in alleging that Roundup caused the Pilliods’ cancer, NHL rates should coincide with the rise in Roundup’s ubiquitous blanketing of the earth.

Monsanto loses $2B Verdict in Third Roundup Trial

The California jury found Monsanto liable for failure to warn claims, design defect claims, negligence claims, and negligent failure to warn claims. They awarded the Pilliods’ $52 million in non-economic damages and $3.2 million in economic damages, along with a combined $2 billion in punitive damages.

The Pilliods’ trial began March 28, one day after a separate California federal jury ordered Monsanto to pay a California man $80 million after it agreed that Roundup exposure caused him to develop NHL. The first Roundup cancer trial concluded in August 2018 when a San Francisco jury in state court awarded a former school groundskeeper $289 million verdict that was later reduced – over the jury’s repeated objections – to $78 million. Monsanto has also appealed that reduced award.

The case is Pilliod v. Monsanto Co., case number RG17862702, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda.

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