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2 April 2019

United States: Bayer-Monsanto sentenced to pay more than $80 million in damages to a glyphosate victim

On 27 March, a federal US court in San Francisco (California) sentenced Bayer-Monsanto to pay more than $80 million in damages to Edwin Hardeman. The jury’s verdict was unanimous. The amount corresponds to compensation of more than $5 million in past and future non-economic loss damages, and $75 million in punitive damages for Monsanto’s grave negligence. The jury not only condemned the lack of information, but also highlighted the causal link between the cancer and the pesticide, considering that the latter had been a substantial factor causing the disease. The jurors were in no doubt that Monsanto had been aware of the risk and had deliberately decided not to inform customers.

Mr Hardeman developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system, in 2015, after having used a herbicide containing glyphosate for almost three decades. Bayer, the German company which acquired Monsanto in 2018, has announced that it will be appealing against the judgment.

This is the first time that a federal US court has handed down a ruling on the consequences of the massive use of glyphosate, the main ingredient of Roundup, the popular US weed-killer. This judgment comes in the wake of other legal battles in which the company suffered defeats. In August 2018, a Californian court sentenced Bayer to pay more than $200 million in damages to a gardener also affected by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In France, the administrative court of Lyon annulled the authorisation to market Roundup 360 on 15 January 2019, in application of the precautionary principle. For its part, on 7 March 2019, the CJEU annulled the decision of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) to refuse access to key information used to justify the renewal of the authorisation to market glyphosate in Europe.

The verdict of the federal jury is likely to have an immense impact. Some 700 similar lawsuits are set to be heard by the same court. More than 11,000 suits have been filed throughout the US.

The day after the announcement of the judgment, Bayer shares fell by more than 10%. By the end of March, Bayer shares had lost 60% of their value compared to their April 2015 peak.

A recent study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology confirms that glyphosate increases the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The same correlation has been established for two insecticides, terbufos and deltamethrin. The study is one of the most important ones conducted on the effects of various pesticides. The data came from more than 315,000 farmers in the US, Norway and France.

In the view of ETUI researcher Laurent Vogel, “this case shows that a legal strategy can pay off, helping to get the most hazardous substances banned. Hundreds of court cases were needed to get asbestos banned in the European Union. Although Bayer-Monsanto managed to get authorisation to market glyphosate in Europe renewed for 5 years in 2017, this chain of court sentences could see the issue being put back on the agenda earlier than planned. It is also an issue in the upcoming European elections”.

Link to the 27 March verdict of the federal jury

All hearings related to this case are available at:

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