OAKLAND (CBS SF) — An Alameda County Superior Court jury Monday awarded more than $2 billion in damages to a Livermore couple, who claimed Roundup weed killer caused both of them to develop cancer, authorities said.
The award to Alva and Alberta Pilliod included $1 billion each in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages for economic and non-economic losses for their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Alva Pilliod, 76, and Alberta Pilliod, 74, were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 and 2015. They testified they sprayed Roundup on weeds on several properties for three decades and believed it was safe because the product labels and television advertisements did not warn of a cancer risk.
“It’s changed our lives forever. We can’t do the things that we used to be able to do, and we really resent Monsanto for that,” said Alberta Pilliod.
After seeing ads on TV, the couple said they used it once a week, nine months out of the year at four properties they own, without any protective gear.
“We wished that Monsanto had warned us ahead of time,” she added.
The verdict stated that the punitive damages were for malice, oppression or fraud on Monsanto’s part.
“Monsanto keeps denying that it that it causes cancer, and these two fine people here are casualties of that deception. This is going to continue until Monsanto and now Bayer takes responsibility for its product,” said attorney Brent Wisner.
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The couple’s case is the third to result in a verdict against Monsanto and is the largest judgment thus far against the agribusiness company, now owned by Bayer AG of Germany.
The company quickly responded saying it was “disappointed with the jury’s decision and will appeal the verdict in this case.”
“We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), most NHL has no known cause, and there is not reliable scientific evidence to conclude that glyphosate-based herbicides were the ‘but for’ cause of their illnesses as the jury was required to find in this case,” the company said in a a release. “The contrast between today’s verdict and EPA’s conclusion that there are ‘no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate’ could not be more stark.”
In the first two cases, a San Francisco Superior Court jury last year awarded former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson of Vallejo $289 million, later reduced by the trial judge to $78 million. In March, a federal jury in San Francisco granted $80 million to Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa.
The three cases are the first to go to trial nationwide among more than 13,000 lawsuits filed in state and federal courts against Monsanto by people who say exposure to Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide, contributed to their cancer.
The jury in the Pilliod case found that Roundup was a substantial factor in causing the couple’s cancers and that Monsanto sold a defective product, failed to warn consumers of the dangers and was negligent.
Both Alva and Alberta are in remission.
Their attorneys say Alberta needs $21,000 worth of medicine a month, to stay alive.
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