$86 million to Northern California couple upheld in Monsanto pesticide case
SAN FRANCISCO — A state appeals court upheld $86.2 million in damages to a Northern California couple who developed cancer after spraying Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide, in their yards for 30 years.
The verdict in favor of Alva and Alberta Pilliod that found Monsanto at fault for knowingly marketing a dangerous product was the third to be upheld by an appeals court, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.
In a 2-1 ruling, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said that despite federal regulators’ approval of Roundup, jurors were entitled to conclude that Monsanto knew the herbicide’s active ingredient, glyphosate, could be dangerous and failed to warn the couple from Livermore.
“The evidence shows Monsanto’s intransigent unwillingness to inform the public about the carcinogenic dangers of a product it made abundantly available at hardware stores and garden shops across the country,” Justice Marla Miller said in the majority opinion.
Dissenting Justice James Richman did not dispute Monsanto’s responsibility for the Pilliods’ illnesses but said the evidence did not show the company knew of the dangers.
The ruling comes less than two weeks after Monsanto’s parent company, Bayer, announced that it would stop selling the current version of Roundup for home and garden use in U.S. stores, starting in 2023.
Bayer said it would replace the herbicide’s main ingredient, glyphosate, with an unspecified active ingredient, subject to federal and state approval, while continuing to sell Roundup with glyphosate for farm use.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as a probable cause of human cancer in 2015. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and most regulatory bodies in Europe say it can be used safely.
The appeals court said there was evidence, which the jury was entitled to believe, that Monsanto had failed to conduct proper studies for the EPA on the safety of the herbicide and that the company’s scientists had “ghost-written” reports in the names of purportedly independent researchers.
In a statement Monday, Bayer said it disagreed with the ruling and was reviewing its options.
“We continue to stand strongly behind the safety of Roundup, a position supported by four decades of extensive science and the assessments of leading health regulators worldwide that support its safe use,” the company said.
Bayer has agreed to pay $10 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits that have already been filed in state and federal courts.