The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a $25 million judgment and jury verdict Friday finding that a California man, Edwin Hardeman, developed cancer from exposure to agribusiness Monsanto’s weed-killer, Bayer’s Roundup.
Hardeman alleged that he developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of the use of Roundup over decades. In 2019, the jury found that the manufacturer was negligent, and the design on Roundup lacked sufficient cancer warnings. The jury awarded Hardeman $75 million in punitive damages, but the federal judge overseeing the trial reduced the punitive damages to $20 million. The jury also awarded Hardeman $5 million in compensatory damages for past and future pain and suffering.
Monsanto argued that the lawsuit should not have gone to trial because federal pesticide laws barred allegations that Monsanto failed to place a cancer warning on the product label. The company explained that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved glyphosate as safe for humans. Monsanto also asserted that decades of studies indicate Roundup is safe for human use.
The appellate court ruled against Monsanto, finding that Monsanto acted with “indifference to or a reckless disregard of the health or safety of others.”
Judge Smith dissented from the decision to uphold the $20 million in punitive damages because “at the time Hardeman used the product, Monsanto was not engaging in unlawful conduct.”
In addition to Hardeman, thousands of people allege that Monsanto’s products caused their cancers. Last year, Bayer agreed to pay $12 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits and to address future claims.