Thousands of people have filed lawsuits against Monsanto and its parent company Bayer because of the link between its weed-killing product Roundup and cancer. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, could cause cancer.
Roundup is a broad-spectrum herbicide, meaning that it kills all vegetation. Monsanto insists that the product only targets a specific enzyme found in plants anddoes not harm people or animals. In the many lawsuits against Monsanto, the plaintiffs claim that glyphosate also harms essential bacteria in humans and other mammals, disrupting the immune and digestive systems.
Cancer Risks From Roundup Exposure
Glyphosate has been in use since the 1970s to control weeds in public parks, schools, homes, and gardens. Roundup is the most popular brand of glyphosate-based herbicide, generating more than $2 billion a year in sales and controlling about 80% of the herbicide market. Most U.S. farmers who grow crops like corn and soy have used Roundup to treat their fields.
Many people have used Roundup to rid their yard of weeds for decades because it’s highly effective. Glyphosate stops plants from producing the essential proteins and amino acids they need to survive, but its safety for human use is dubious. Studies on glyphosate, including the IARC findings, say that the herbicide may cause cancers like non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate is associated with the following cancers:
- Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
- Multiple Myeloma
- Mantle Cell Lymphoma
- Kidney Cancer
- Burkitt Lymphoma
- Follicular Lymphoma
The lawsuits against Monsanto claim that the company knew about the potential cancer risks of Roundup for more than thirty years but continued to sell the product despite their knowledge. Plaintiffs have accused the company of failing to warn users of the dangers and spreading false or misleading information about glyphosate.
Roundup in Agriculture
Roundup was not always popular with farmers because the weed killer also can destroy crops, making it useless for application in the fields. However, Monsanto released Roundup Ready seeds in the 1990s, which produce Roundup-resistant crops. Farmers were able to spray an entire field without harming their valuable plants.
As Roundup’s use surged in the agricultural industry, weeds slowly developed resistance to the glyphosate in the product. Farmers have needed to use increasingly more Roundup to kill their weeds, exposing the workers and crops to much higher volumes of glyphosate.
With the IARC’s revelation about glyphosate’s cancer risks, the widespread use of Roundup in agriculture could lead to more lawsuits in the future.
The lawsuits involving Roundup claim that the companies Monsanto and its parent company Bayer have failed to warn Roundup users of the link between their product and cancer and that some individuals developed cancer from exposure to the herbicide. They also claim that the companies continue to sell Roundup while ignoring the health risks they have been aware of for over three decades since the lawsuits began.
In 2020, Bayer paid over $10 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits. Most of these cases consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL), primarily in California and Missouri. MDLs allow plaintiffs to centralize their pretrial preparations and share vital evidence, making it a common tactic for mass torts.
Plaintiff Won $289 Million Verdict in California
In 2018, a California jury awarded $289 million to Dewayne Johnson, a man with Stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Johnson consistently used Roundup for his job as a school groundskeeper in San Francisco and twice had accidents where he had significant exposure to the herbicide.
The jury unanimously determined that Monsanto failed to warn of the cancer risks linked to Roundup and awarded $39 million to Johnson in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. The federal judge lowered the punitive damages to $78 million, and a California appeals court in 2020 reduced the award to $20.5 million.
Jury Awards $80 Million to Man With Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
A seventy-year-old man named Edward Hardeman used Roundup to kill weeds on his property for over two decades, and in 2015, he received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That same year, the IARC released its findings that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.
Hardeman sued Monsanto, claiming that his long-time exposure to Roundup caused him to develop cancer. In 2019, the jury agreed with his claim and awarded him $80 million in damages. Monsanto appealed, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Monsanto’s appeal in May 2021.
California Couple Wins $2 Billion in Damages
Alva and Alberta Pilliod both developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 and 2015, respectively. The couple used Roundup as a weed killer for decades, and the exposure caused their cancer. When they sued Monsanto, their lawyer requested $1 billion in punitive damages for each injured party, basing the number on Monsanto’s profits of $892 million in 2017.
The court ordered Monsanto to pay $2 billion in damages, but the amount was later decreased to $87 million. The appeals court denied Monsanto’s appeal and confirmed the award.
This case was one of three significant lawsuits where glyphosate-cased herbicide caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the plaintiffs.
Monsanto and Bayer Continue to Fight Lawsuits
Thousands of cases are still pending, and new cases continue to emerge as people develop cancer linked to their exposure to Roundup. Despite losing verdicts and paying billions of dollars in settlements, Bayer and Monsanto continue to sell Roundup while denying claims of its association with cancer.
A Bloomberg article in 2019 showed evidence that cases of Roundup exposure causing cancer are increasing, and federal regulators are ignoring the signs of a potential public health issue. Bayer spent $10 billion in 2020 to resolve thousands of cases through settlement but has not stopped selling the product in stores. However, the company has promised to take Roundup off the shelves by 2023.
The plaintiffs of these lawsuits are homeowners, landscapers, farmers, and other people who commonly use Roundup. The amount they have received in damages ranges from $5,000 to $250,000.
Anyone who has developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) or lost a loved one with NHL after exposure to Roundup may have a viable case. At Mass Tort Resource, we can answer your questions about the Roundup mass tort. Call us at 844-636-7459 or fill out our form for a free consultation.