A jury in St. Louis awarded $1.25 million to a longtime user of Roundup weedkiller who claimed he developed cancer because of the controversial herbicide.
The October 20 unanimous verdict in Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court found that Bayer-owned Monsanto was liable for plaintiff John Durnell’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The verdict, which did not include punitive damages, according to Reuters, ends a streak of nine consecutive verdicts that found Monsanto not liable for plaintiffs’ cancer. Durnell’s medical compensatory award also marks the first Roundup plaintiff verdict outside of California and the first Roundup trial loss for Monsanto in its former headquarters in greater St. Louis.
According to Durnell’s attorney, the case was also noteworthy because it was the first time evidence about alleged cancer-causing chemicals other than glyphosate was presented to the jury.
Durnell claims to have started using Roundup in 1996 and was diagnosed with NHL several years later after discovering a painful knot, a St. Louis Fox affiliate reported.
"The client and plaintiff's lawyers are extremely happy and grateful for the verdict after a hard-fought 3-week trial," Blair said per Reuters. Bayer announced in a statement that it intends to appeal the verdict, adding, "We continue to stand behind the safety of Roundup and will defend the safety of our products and our good faith actions in any future litigation.”
In 2020, Bayer settled most of the 125,000 Roundup cancer cases it faced for nearly $11 billion, however, the company, which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion just one month before the first Roundup cancer trial began, still faces approximately 40,000 Roundup lawsuits.
Bayer’s proposal to settle future Roundup lawsuits has been rejected twice by the U.S. District Judge overseeing the cases consolidated in multidistrict litigation. Prior to Bayer’s streak of successfully defending itself against cancer claims in recent months, in 2018 and 2019, the first three Roundup trials were held, each one in California. All three trials returned plaintiff verdicts totaling tens of millions of dollars in damages.
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review two of the three decisions that appellate courts had upheld. Bayer has argued in state Roundup trials that because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans, federal labeling laws would negate the necessity for states like California to mandate cancer warning labels on Roundup products. Thus far, the U.S. Supreme Court has also not weighed in on Bayer’s attempt to challenge the plaintiff’s ability to sue under state law.
Scientific controversy over glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup remains as The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 identified glyphosate as a possible carcinogen.
However, a joint finding by the WHO and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced the following year that glyphosate did not pose a significant health risk to humans. Meanwhile, several research studies suggest glyphosate is associated with a higher risk of chronic health problems in humans and animals and may harm the environment.
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