US jury awards $2bn damages in Roundup weedkiller cancer claim

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A jury in state court in Oakland, Calif., issued the verdict Monday after two other California trials over the herbicide yielded combined damages of $159 million against the company. Hardeman had used Roundup for more than 25 years on his Sonoma property.

"We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), most National Hockey League has no known cause, and there is not reliable scientific evidence to conclude that glyphosate-based herbicides were the "but for" cause of their illnesses as the jury was required to find in this case", the company said in a a release.

It awarded $18m in compensatory and one billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod, as well as $37m in compensatory and one billion in punitive damages to his wife, Alberta Pilliod.

The couple's legal team described the damages award as "historic", saying it totaled 2.055 billion USA dollars after adding in slightly more than 55 million US dollars in compensatory damages.

This follows almost six weeks of testimony followed by closing arguments last Wednesday.

The plaintiffs' attorneys estimate that there are now 13,400 similar Roundup cancer cases pending in state and federal courts in the US.

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The jury's verdict on Monday was the third such courtroom loss for Monsanto concerning the chemical, which Bayer acquired as part of its $63bn purchase of the company a year ago. Defense attorney Tarek Ismail emphasized that Monsanto wouldn't be responsible if the couple would have developed lymphoma without exposure to Roundup.

This is the largest payout in this series of cases to date - and, in fact, rates as one of the highest payouts in history over an alleged defective product. And the company insists there is no link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins's lymphoma.

"The contrast between today's verdict and EPA's conclusion that there are "no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate" could not be more stark", Bayer said.

They filed their lawsuit in 2017 after being diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and 2015, respectively. "By now, most Bayer executives, its board and shareholders must all be questioning the decision to acquire Monsanto and its mounting liability over its cancer-causing weedkiller". Both of them are now in remission, but their trial had been expedited due to the risk of a relapse and potentially short life expectancy.

In March, a San Francisco jury awarded a man $80 million who blamed his cancer on his extensive use of Roundup. Bayer denies those allegations. Cases like the Pilliods' surged after a World Health Organization report in 2015 suggested that glyphosate might cause cancer. As NPR's Dan Charles reported, the finding from the International Agency for Research on Cancer caused Monsanto to launch a fierce campaign to discredit the IARC's conclusions. The EPA on May 1 reaffirmed its earlier findings, saying glyphosate did not pose a risk to public health.

The Alameda County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days before reaching a verdict.

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