A Landmark Case
In a landmark victory for farmers affected by pesticide spray drift, a Missouri jury forced Monsanto and BASF to pay $250 million in punitive damages to Bill and Denise Bader of Bader Farms.
Bader Farms, Missouri’s largest peach producer, filed suit against Monsanto for causing major damage to its orchards due to the drifting of the pesticide dicamba. Dicamba is a weed killer that had traditionally been limited in use because of its propensity to drift and harm crops. In 2017, however, Monsanto and BASF released new formulations of dicamba designed to be sprayed over genetically modified soybean and cotton crops and advertised to be less prone to drift.
A Failure to Inform
But once shown the hundreds of internal corporate documents and emails, official state studies, and published papers on the topic, the jury overwhelmingly found that Monsanto and BASF’s dicamba weed killers were in fact prone to drifting from the genetically modified soybean and cotton fields where they are sprayed and onto neighboring fields, like the Bader’s.
The jury determined that Monsanto and BASF were liable for negligent design of their pesticide dicamba and failure to provide necessary information about the risks of those pesticides. For example, Illinois, the nation’s top soybean producing state, had fewer than 100 total drift complaints annually for all pesticides for 30 years. But since Monsanto introduced a new version of dicamba in 2017, it set new records each year – with more than 700 dicamba complaints in 2019.
In awarding punitive damages, the jury also found that Monsanto and BASF engaged in a “conspiracy to create an ecological disaster to increase profits.”
Other Monsanto Pesticide Drift Cases
The Monsanto dicamba pesticide drift litigation has parallels to cases Thornton Law firm is currently litigating in Hawaii on behalf of families who lived downwind from Monsanto genetically-engineered seed farms and whose children were born with severe birth defects as a result of pesticides drifting into their homes.
Published on May 14, 2019
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 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.
UPDATE: The jury awarded over $80 million dollars to plaintiff Edwin Hardeman; compensatory damages of $5.27 million and punitive damages of $75 million
Published March 22, 2019
A federal court jury has ruled unanimously that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller was a substantial contributing factor in the development of a California man’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma). This is the first federal bellwether (test case) of the federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL) involving claims that Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Plaintiff Edwin Hardeman used Roundup weedkiller (active ingredient glyphosate) in the 1980s until 2012 on his 56 acre Sonoma County property to treat poison oak, overgrowth and weeds. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer, in 2015. He underwent chemotherapy and is currently in remission from his cancer.
The trial was bifurcated into two phases. This verdict was on the narrow question of whether Roundup caused Mr. Hardeman’s cancer. The jury answered “Yes” to the only question on the verdict form:
“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?”
Monsanto was acquired by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG last year. Bayer issued a statement on Twitter saying that it continues to believe that glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer.
The second phase of the trial, to determine liability and damages, is taking place right now. Evidence is being presented about Monsanto’s knowledge of Roundup’s cancer-causing properties, whether they failed to warn of known hazards, and whether Monsanto is liable for, and the amount of, any damages suffered by Mr. Hardeman.
Thornton Law Firm is currently handling non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer cases involving Roundup weedkiller. We have a long standing history of litigation against Monsanto and Bayer involving Roundup. We filed suit in Delaware in 2012 on behalf of a large number of children with spina bifida and other serious birth injuries whose parents were tobacco farmers in Argentina. We will utilize our extensive experience and expertise in representing persons with cancer and other serious disease from exposures to toxic substances in providing representation to persons with non-Hodgkin lymphoma from usage of one of the largest selling herbicides worldwide. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after occupational or heavy residential exposure to Roundup, please call Attorney David Strouss at 888-491-9726 or tell us your story online here.
Overshadowed by the continuing debate over the government shutdown is the apparent fate of legislative protection of companies responsible for genetically modified organisms (“GMO”). In March of this year, a last-minute clause added to a government funding bill created a furor by protecting GMO companies, like Monsanto, from responsibility for any harm arising from their GMO products. As it now stands, the “Monsanto Protection Act,” as it came to be called, will expire in the middle of December. The latest round of discussions in the Senate aimed at averting a government shutdown did not include any version of the “Monsanto” provisions. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) had lobbied forcefully against the GMO loopholes. The Monsanto Protection Act would have prevented the Secretary of Agriculture from taking any action to prevent harm from genetically modified organism crops, even when there was evidence of harm. GMO seeds and crops have been linked to environmental and human health concerns, as well as threatening existing non-GMO crops that may be planted in proximity to GMO products. In August of 2013, the journal Nature published a story that showed GMO crops can pass their genetic modification to weeds growing with or near the GMO crops. When this occurs, the weeds become resistant to herbicide, reducing crop yield.
According to testing groups, the current percentage genetic modification of certain mainstay U.S. crops is astonishingly high. 90% of canola, 88% of corn, 90% of cotton, 94% of soy, and 95% of sugar beets are estimated to be genetically modified. In addition, raw GMO crops are also the main source of other products, like aspartame, vitamin C, citric acid, high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, sucrose, xanthan gum, and vitamins, among others. 60 countries, including all countries in the European Union, Australia, and Japan, have enacted significant restrictions on the use and sale of GMO products, or an outright ban. Currently in the U.S., there is no labeling requirement that identifies the presence of GMO products. Some products, however, have voluntarily certified that they are “non-GMO.”
Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world. In the 1990s, it began testing a GMO strain of wheat called MON 71800. Tested between 1998 and 2005 by Monsanto, the product was never marketed in the United States. Farmers were concerned about the risk of foreign markets refusing U.S. wheat shipments due to stricter foreign regulations. Despite these events, a strain of genetically modified wheat was found this year growing on a farm in Oregon. After testing, the wheat was identified as MON 71800. As a result, Japan suspended its import of American wheat. The source of the GMO wheat in Oregon is unknown at this time, but Monsanto has alleged that its presence was the result of sabotage. Monsanto also manufactures the weed killer Round-up, which, along with its GMO Round-up resistant seeds, accounts for approximately half of Monsanto’s business.
Thornton Law Firm has represented consumers and governments affected by toxic and environmental harm for 40 years. The firm’s lawyers have fought the tobacco, lead paint, asbestos, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries successfully on behalf of individual and class clients. If you have questions about your legal rights, call Thornton Law Firm at 888-491-9726 today and a lawyer will be happy to speak with you and answer your questions.