By David C. Strouss, Esq.

Published on May 14, 2019

UPDATE: Ruling in favor of the Pilliods, the First District Court of Appeal upheld the award of $87 million, rejecting Monsanto’s bid to overturn the award. The decision was handed down in August of 2021.

UPDATE: The trial judge, while upholding the verdict, cut the jury award to the Pilliods from $2.055 billion to $87 million. The July 2019 decision reduced punitive damages to $70 million, and reduced the compensatory money the jury awarded to the couple for past and future pain and suffering to $17 million.

A northern California jury awarded $2 billion dollars in punitive damages against Bayer to  a couple who used Roundup weedkiller and have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Ruling that the plaintiffs’ use of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller was a “substantial factor” in the development of their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the jury’s verdict was the largest jury award in the United States this year, and the eighth largest in a product liability claim in history. Monsanto was acquired by German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer in 2018.

Plaintiffs Alva and Albert Pilliod, both in their 70s, are residents of Livermore, California. They used Roundup, the world’s most widely used weedkiller, to landscape their home and other properties for over 30 years, from 1975 until 2011.

Both went on to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (also known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or NHL). Alva was diagnosed in 2011 with systemic NHL in his bones, which spread to his pelvis and spine.  Alberta Pilliod was diagnosed with NHL brain cancer in 2015. Both are in remission. The trial was expedited due to their poor health and shorter life expectancies.

The jury found that Monsanto failed to warn the Pilliods of the risk of developing cancer. Each plaintiff was awarded $1 billion dollars in punitive damages. They were also awarded $55 million in compensatory damages for medical costs, pain and suffering, and other losses; Alva was awarded $37 million and Alberta $18 million. It is likely the punitive damages award will be reduced based on recent Supreme Court decisions limiting punitive damages.

This is the third trial lost by Bayer over Roundup cancer claims. Plaintiff Edwin Hardeman was awarded $80 million dollars in 2019; that verdict was later reduced to $25 million by the trial judge; in 2021 the 9th Circuit upheld that award.  In 2018 plaintiff Dewayne Johnson was awarded $289 million.  The Johnson verdict was later reduced by the trial judge to $78 million and by the California Court of Appeal to $20.4 million. Mr. Johnson’s $20.4 million dollar award was upheld by the California Supreme Court when it declined to hear Bayer’s appeal in 2020.

Research has linked NHL, a cancer that affects the immune system, to glyphosate exposure. The plaintiffs’ trial counsel presented internal Monsanto documents as evidence of the close relationship between Monsanto and U.S. regulators and scientists. They argued that Monsanto worked so closely with scientists writing purportedly neutral studies that Monsanto “ghostwrote” the published science.

After the trial, a Bayer lawyer asked one juror what the panel had wanted hear from Bayer in defense of the claim that Roundup is safe. The juror responded:  “I wanted you to get up and drink it.” One of the Pilliod’s trial attorneys said after the verdict: “Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe. Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda.”

Attorney Strouss and Thornton Law Firm have a longstanding history of litigation involving Roundup. We filed suit against Monsanto in Delaware in 2012 on behalf of several children with serious birth injuries including spina bifida; their parents were tobacco farmers in Argentina.  We will use our experience and expertise in representing people with cancer from other exposures to toxic substances in representing individuals with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from using Roundup, the largest-selling weedkiller worldwide.  If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after heavy exposure to Roundup, please call Attorney David Strouss at 888-491-9726 or tell us your story online here.