A California jury awarded a couple over $2 billion in a case against the company Monsanto, whose popular weed killer Roundup allegedly caused their cancer.
Long-term exposure to the herbicide Roundup reportedly led to Alva and Alberta Pilliod contracting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which led to them filing a lawsuit against Monsanto in 2017.
Jury Reaches Landmark Verdict
This verdict consists of a whopping $2 billion in punitive damages and another $55 million in compensatory damages, which adds up to the largest verdict in the United States yet against the company in the legal fight over the controversial chemical.
According to Reuters, this amount is likely to be reduced, particularly the punitive damages as U.S. Supreme Court rulings limit the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages to just 9:1.
The Pilliods have been using Roundup on their property for over 30 years, until they were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2011 and 2015.
The lawsuit alleges that although Monsanto has been aware of their product's cancer risks, the company failed to provide a sufficient warning to consumers. Additionally, there are allegations over the company's attempts to influence researchers and regulators to receive favorable reviews and assessments.
One of the plaintiffs' lawyers Michael Miller said in a statement that there were plenty of evidence presented to the jury "showing Monsanto's manipulation of science, the media, and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda."
Both Alva and Alberta are currently in remission, but the trial has been expedited in the face of the possibility of a relapse or a reduced life expectancy from the disease.
Bayer Responds To Verdict
Monsanto's parent company, Bayer, released a statement after the jury's decision, expressing their disappointment on the verdict and future plans of appeals.
In the statement, Bayer officials maintained that Roundup key ingredient glyphosate is safe and non-carcinogenic, according to health experts and regulators worldwide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released a review concluding that currently registered uses of glyphosate have no risks for public health, they pointed out.
"In contrast, plaintiffs in this case presented the jury with cherry-picked findings from a tiny fraction of the volume of studies available," the statement continued, adding that the plaintiffs did not adjust for exposure to other pesticides nor showed statistically significant results.
Instead, Bayer said that the Pilliods already have a history with illnesses and possess risk factors for the disease.
It's not the first time that Bayer has faced heat over glyphosate with the company dealing with over 13,400 lawsuits in the United States for Roundup's alleged cancer risk.
There have been a lot of lawsuits that came after a 2015 report from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer tagged glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans." Bayer calls the IARC findings an outlier among health regulators worldwide.
The Pilliod case is the third of previous jury verdicts against Bayer regarding this chemical in the United States. Both previous ones have also been in California, but the next trial in the glyphosate litigation is set in Missouri in August 2019.