Recent court decisions have found that the key ingredient used in the popular weed killer Roundup—glyphosate—causes cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma—and awarded individuals who had sustained exposure with substantial verdicts.
Monsanto, the agricultural chemical company, produced and marketed Roundup. The company was acquired by the multinational pharmaceutical company, Bayer, in June 2018 for $63 billion. At the time of acquisition, Bayer knew about several product liability lawsuits filed against Monsanto’s Roundup.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and NGL.
What is the chemical glyphosate?
Registered as a pesticide in the U.S. since 1974, it is the active ingredient contained in a number of herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup-branded products. Roundup also contains other chemicals.
Glyphosate is sold to combat a broad range of invasive and noxious weeds in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, without killing the plants or crops. It is important in the production of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and glyphosate-resistant field crops such as corn, cotton, canola, and soybean. Non-agricultural uses include residential and aquatic areas, forests, rights of way, ornamentals and turf.
Roundup weed killer is used by farmworkers, groundskeepers, gardeners, nursery workers, landscapers, and horticulturists.
Studies of glyphosate by regulatory agencies worldwide
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. In 2019, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) affirmed its earlier opinion that glyphosate products are safe and not carcinogenic for human use. Other international panels and chemical health regulators worldwide agree with the EPA’s conclusion.
California lawsuits and verdicts
According to Bayer’s 2018 annual report (page 250), as of January 1, 2019, there “are approximately 11,200 lawsuits filed” by individuals claiming to have been exposed to glyphosate. However, other sources place the number of estimated Monsanto cancer claims closer to 13,400.
At the time of this writing in July 2019, Monsanto has lost three separate trials in California, where juries have hit Monsanto with big damages. Monsanto is appealing all three verdicts.
- In the first trial, in August 2018, a jury awarded a school groundskeeper $289 million after he proved that his long-term and regular exposure to the Roundup weed killer caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The trial judge later reduced the award to $78 million.
- In the second trial, in March 2019, a California jury in federal court awarded about $80 million to a man diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup on his Sonoma property for more than 26 years. The jury found that Monsanto was liable for failing to warn of that risk on its product labels.
- In the third trial, in May 2019, an Oakland, California jury awarded a stunning $2 billion in punitive damages, on top of $55 million in compensatory damages (pain and suffering and medical expenses), to an elderly married couple. The couple contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after decades of continually using Roundup on their residential properties. The jury heard evidence that Monsanto made no serious effort to determine whether Roundup was carcinogenic when it developed and marketed Roundup.
Questions arose even within Monsanto that its popular weed killer could cause cancer. Internal Monsanto documents released as part of the lawsuits showed that Monsanto had warned its own employees to use protective gloves and goggles when spraying Roundup. The company’s scientists recommended that consumers also wear waterproof protective gear when handling Roundup, but Monsanto refused to pass that warning on to its customers, presumably because it feared that product sales would be harmed by any admission that spraying Roundup creates a serious health risk.
Monsanto’s next trial will be in its home town of St. Louis, scheduled to begin in August 2019.
Judging from its 2018 annual report (page 250), the German pharmaceutical giant Is digging in.
The company continues to assert that the verdicts are inconsistent with the scientific data and research conclusions of international regulatory agencies, as well as the U.S. EPA, that the weed killer is a public health risk and causes cancer. The report states: “More than 800 scientific studies and regulatory authorities all over the world confirm that glyphosate is safe for use when used according to label instructions. This includes an independent study which followed more than 50,000 licensed pesticide applicators for more than 20 years which found no associate between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2017 risk assessment which examined more than 100 studies and concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.’”
Monsanto contends that WHO based its assessment on “junk science.” The claim is ironic in light of evidence that Monsanto influenced the studies that it relied upon as proof that glyphosate is safe. Just as lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson exposed its practice of paying scientists to report results that deny the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, Monsanto employees co-authored a scientific paper without disclosing their affiliation with Monsanto. A Monsanto executive proposed using the strategy of “ghost-writing” studies to discredit WHO’s conclusion.
The cooked science was part of a public relations campaign that included a decades-long pattern of deceptive tactics by Monsanto to persuade regulators, lawmakers and members of the press and public that glyphosate and Roundup are safe. Lawyers representing the cancer victims uncovered evidence that Monsanto used the same public relations strategy to discredit WHO.
Monsanto depended in part on commentary produced by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH for short), an industry-friendly group that calls itself “science based.” Emails establish that ACSH solicited funding from Monsanto as it was discussing the company’s need for ACSH commentary to critique WHO’s findings.
Exposed to Roundup? What should you do next?
If you have had regular, sustained exposure (40+ hours) to Roundup (or any product containing glyphosate, such as Accord, Honcho, Pondmaster, Protocol, Rascal, Roundup Pro and Roundup Ultra) and are diagnosed with any form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma or leukemia, you could be entitled to a settlement.
At this time, the number of Roundup cases settled at the trial level is tiny (and none have gone through the appellate process where the case(s) could be overturned). The outcomes of these lawsuits and other future lawsuits will determine who is entitled to receive a payout. But how long it will take for the court process to move along is unknown.
That said, if you have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after sustained use of Roundup, seek the services of a lawyer who concentrates on product liability litigation cases for a contingency fee (which means you do not pay unless you win). The Roundup cancer cases are highly complex and determining liability in these cases is a critical factor.
Think about it this way: you are up against the very deep pockets of a multinational corporation and its bank of highly experienced lawyers. You are no match. You need an advocate just to understand what’s involved and what, if anything, is likely to happen and what your options might be.
Advocate Law Group provides free consultations and evaluations; our attorneys understand the complexity of the law, the litigation process and customs of the courts, and have a team of experts to evaluate the merits of your case.