RoundUp weed killer.
A federal jury in San Francisco has found that Monsanto’s Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing a Northern California man’s cancer.
The unanimous ruling Tuesday from the six-member jury means that jurors will now move on to hear a second phase of Edwin Hardeman’s case against Monsanto, the first bellwether case to go to trial in multidistrict litigation claiming Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans. In the trial’s second phase, jurors will consider evidence about what the company knew about the herbicide’s carcinogenic properties, its interactions with regulators and potential damages.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California, who is overseeing multidistrict claims the popular weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or NHL, bifurcated trial to first consider the question of whether the scientific evidence supported claims that Hardeman’s Roundup use was a significant factor in him contracting NHL.
Monsanto’s lawyers at Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz had contended that Hardeman had other significant risk factors for NHL, including his age, weigh, and a long-term Hepatitis infection. The jury, however, answered “yes” to the only question on their verdict form for phase one of the trial: “Did Mr. Hardeman prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his exposure to Roundup was a substantial factor in causing his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?”
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Jennifer Moore of the Moore Law Group, who is co-lead counsel for Hardeman alongside Aimee Wagstaff of Andrus Wagstaff, said Tuesday afternoon leaving the courtroom that the verdict "was a long time coming for Mr. Hardeman" and that he and his legal team were looking forward to putting their case in phase two of the trial.
The verdict is a significant blow to Monsanto parent company Bayer AG, which last year was hit with a $289 million verdict in San Francisco Superior Court in a Roundup case outside the MDL proceedings. Although the state court judge overseeing that case slashed the award by more than $200 million post-trial, the company had been hoping to set a different tone in the MDL cases with a defense verdict in phase one of the first case to go to trial.
Dan Childs, a spokesman for Bayer in the U.S., said in a prepared statement that the company was "disappointed" in the phase one verdict but continues to believe that Roundup and other herbicides with the active ingredient glyphosate don't cause cancer. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer," Childs said. Childs said that the phase one verdict in Hardeman's case will have "no impact on future cases and trials because each one has its own factual and legal circumstances."
"We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family, but an extensive body of science supports the conclusion that Roundup was not the cause of his cancer," Child said. "Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them."
On Tuesday afternoon, Chhabria, as he has throughout the proceedings, urged jurors to avoid news coverage of the case, but added "now more than ever."
"Keep your head down. Keep your ears closed," he said to jurors before they left for the day.
Phase two of the trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning.