A California jury ordered pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Bayer to pay $332 million to a man who said he developed cancer after using Roundup weedkiller.
Mike Dennis, 57, was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2020. He sued Roundup’s maker, Monsanto Co., arguing that his illness was caused by years of exposure to the product’s active ingredient, glyphosate. While Dennis has been in remission for three years after undergoing treatment, there is no cure for his cancer.
Glyphosate was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization in 2015 although many governments have ruled that it is safe enough to be used. The United States Environmental Protection Agency describes glyphosate as a “widely used herbicide that controls broadleaf weeds and grasses” that has been registered in America since 1974. The EPA said the substance is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
Monsanto, which is based in Missouri, is now owned and operated by Bayer, which bought the chemical company in 2018 for $63 billion.
On Oct. 31, a San Diego Superior Court jury awarded Dennis $7 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages, reports ABC News.
A spokesperson for Bayer told Reuters that the jury did not find Bayer negligent and did not find that the product was not defectively designed. The jury did, however, find that Bayer had failed to warn consumers about the risks associated with Roundup.
“The punitive damage award is almost certain to be reduced sharply, as the U.S. Supreme Court has found that punitive damages should be less than 10 times the compensatory damages in virtually all cases,” noted the outlet.
In a statement to People Magazine, Bayer said:
We respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict and believe that we have strong arguments on appeal to get this unfounded verdict overturned and the unconstitutionally excessive damage award eliminated or reduced, given that there were significant and reversible legal and evidentiary errors made during this trial. We have a winning record in the Roundup litigation – having won nine of the last twelve cases at trial – and having resolved the majority of claims in this litigation.
Thousands of lawsuits related to Roundup have been filed against Monsanto. The plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit have some form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, B-cell lymphoma, or T-cell lymphoma.
In June of 2020, Bayer agreed to pay over $10 billion to settle nearly 100,000 lawsuits filed over Roundup and other cases involving the herbicide dicamba as well as water contaminated with toxic chemicals called PCBs.
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said the 2020 settlement would “return the conversation about the safety and utility of glyphosate-based herbicides to the scientific and regulatory arena and to the full body of science,” per NPR.