While thousands of cancer patients are currently involved in lawsuits against the agrochemical corporation Monsanto Company, only three have gone to trial, all of which have resulted in verdicts favoring the plaintiff. Most recently, a California jury awarded the plaintiff the eighth-largest personal injury verdict in United States history—$2.055 billion—claiming, both, that the company’s popular weed killer Roundup has carcinogenic properties and that the company “manipulated science, the media, and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda.”
The couple receiving the award, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, both started using Roundup in the 1970’s. Now almost fifty years later, both individuals suffer from cancer; Mr. Pilliod suffers from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his bones, including his spine, and Mrs. Pilliod suffers from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma brain cancer. As a result, the couple received $55 million in compensatory damages. This, however, pales in comparison to the $2 billion punitive award against Monsanto, who continues to claim that the herbicide at play, glyphosate, is non-carcinogenic. Working against the defense is a “mountain of evidence” showing that the agrochemical company explicitly tried to interfere with governmental agencies who wanted to review the product. Various investigations have illuminated a concerning relationship between Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency, which involved EPA officials that offered to help Monsanto prevent another company from reviewing the effects the herbicide.
It is certainly expected that the defense will appeal the case, and though there is little chance that the verdict will be reversed, it is additionally expected that the initial $2 billion award will be dramatically reduced, similar to a previous Roundup case wherein a jury award of $289 million was cut down to $78 million. Plaintiff’s attorneys admit that, though the actions of Monsanto Company were egregious and reprehensible, the Supreme Court has issued guidelines that “punitive damages usually should not exceed 10 times the compensatory damages.”