A federal jury in San Francisco has found that a commonly used weed killer played a significant role in causing a California man’s cancer, delivering another blow to the agrochemical giant Monsanto as it fights a similar decision issued last year.
In a verdict announced Tuesday, jurors ruled in favor of Edwin Hardeman, a 70-year-old Sonoma County man, finding that exposure to the herbicide Roundup was “a substantial factor” in the development of his cancer.
The case will now move on to a second phase where the jury will consider whether Monsanto, now Bayer, knew and concealed information about the potential harm their product could cause, and decide whether to award any damages to Hardeman.
It is the lead case of a multidistrict litigation involving more than 1,600 plaintiffs in the US District Court for the Northern District of California and the second lawsuit that has gone to trial alleging Monsanto’s glyphosate-based products cause cancer.
In August 2018, a jury in California state court awarded Dewayne Johnson, a terminally ill man who worked as a groundskeeper for a San Francisco Bay Area school district, nearly $290 million in damages. The verdict was later reduced to $78.5 million and is on appeal.
Hardeman was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in February 2015 after using Roundup to kill poison oak and other invasive plants on his 56-acre property for more than two decades.
The lawsuit alleges that Hardeman’s longterm exposure to Roundup caused his cancer and that Monsanto knew or should have known of the risks and failed to provide adequate warnings about the harm associated with using the product.
Jennifer Moore, an attorney for the Sonoma County man, said Hardeman used Roundup regularly, spraying approximately 6,000 gallons of the herbicide over the course of 26 years.
“They had a large poison oak problem and he had to spray regularly to keep the poison oak from taking over the hiking trails from taking over their water system from encroaching into their gutters on to their roof,” Moore told BuzzFeed News last week.
Since his diagnosis, Hardeman has undergone six rounds of chemotherapy and now goes in for regular scans to see if the cancer is coming back, Moore said.
“He’s not out of the woods yet,” she said.
Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical company last year, has continued to argue that the herbicide is safe.
The agrochemical company did not immediately respond to a BuzzFeed News request for comment Tuesday.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans, but a draft report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded the herbicide is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
The EPA’s inspector general is investigating reports that an agency employee colluded with Monsanto to conduct biased research on glyphosate.
In an order issued earlier this month, District Court Judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing the Hardeman case, questioned the company’s investigation of the potential risks of the herbicide.
“Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue,” Chhabria wrote.
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