After a court hearing on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria announced his plan to reduce an $80 million damage award to a man who alleged his cancer was caused by the glyphosate in weedkiller Roundup. On March 27, 2019 a federal jury awarded plaintiff Edwin Hardeman $5 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages. Hardeman was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014 following his long-term exposure to the glyphosate in Roundup weedkiller. This trial was another massive loss for defendant Bayer AG, who’s subsidiary Monsanto Company manufactures Roundup and faces thousands of lawsuits in the US.
Judge Chhabria, who presides over the Roundup multidistrict litigation (MDL) in San Francisco, said the jury’s punitive damages award of $75 million could not stand, especially given the ratio limit of 9 to 1 on punitive to compensatory damages.
“It’s quite clear that under the Constitution I’m required to reduce the punitive damages award and its just a question of how much,” Judge Chhabria stated during the court hearing, where lawyers from both parties discussed Bayer AG’s request to overturn the jury’s verdict. Additionally, Judge Chhabria mentioned considering reducing the compensatory damages award, as well, since Hardeman is now in full remission from his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Over 13,400 lawsuits are currently filed against Bayer nationwide and raise similar allegations that the glyphosate in Roundup weedkiller caused plaintiffs’ cancer diagnoses. Some of the lawsuits allege that Monsanto Company knew for years of glyphosate’s potentially carcinogenic quality and did not inform consumers or health officials. After presenting scientific evidence that found glyphosate to be safe for humans, Bayer requested for the jury’s punitive damages award to be reversed. However, Judge Chhabria refused, saying the jurors found satisfactory evidence that Monsanto gave little regard about whether their products could cause cancer.