Monsanto's Roundup blamed for cancer. $2 billion. Alameda County.

Summary

Couple uses Roundup weed killer on their properties. This trial culminated in the third consecutive jury verdict against Monsanto in the Roundup cancer litigation.

The Case

  • Case Name: Alva Pilliod and Alberta Pilliod v. Monsanto Company
  • Court and Case Number: Alameda Superior Court / RG17862702, JCCP No. 4953
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, May 13, 2019
  • Type of Action: Products Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Winifred Smith
  • Plaintiffs:
    Alva Pilliod, 77, finance.
    Alberta Pilliod, 75, educator.
  • Defendants:
    Monsanto Company
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $2.055,000,000
  • Economic Damages:

    Alva Pilliod:

    Past: $47,296.01

     

    Alberta Pilliod:

    Past: $201,166.76

    Future: $2,957,710

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Alva Pilliod:

    Past: $8,000,000
    Future: $10,000,000

     

    Alberta Pilliod:

    Past: $8,000,000 

    Future: $26,000,000 

  • Punitive Damages:

    $1 billion for each plaintiff (see post-trial notes).

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 7 weeks.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Total damages were reduced to $86.7 million by the court in ruling on motion for JNOV, and for new trial.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Miller Firm LLC by Michael Miller, Nancy Miller, Curtis G. Hoke, David J. Dickens and Jeffrey Travers, Orange, VA.

    Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman PC by R. Brent Wisner, Pedram Esfandiary and Michael L. Baum, Los Angeles.

    Audet & Partners LLP by Mark Burton, San Francisco.

    Brady Law Group by Steven J. Brady, San Francisco.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Evans Fears & Schuttert LLP by Kelly A. Evans, Las Vegas, NV.

    Hinshaw & Culbertson by Eugene Brown, Jr., San Francisco.

    Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum LLP by Tarek Ismail, Chicago, IL.

    Hollingsworth LLP by Kirby T. Griffis, Washington, D.C.

     

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Kavitha Raj, M.D., oncology, hematology, Palo Alto.

    James Rubenstein,, M.D., oncology, hematology, San Francisco.

    Neel Gupta, M.D., oncology, hematology, Palo Alto.

     

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Celeste Bello, M.D., oncology, hematology, Tampa, FL.

    Alexandra Levine, M.D., oncology, hematology, Duarte.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Christopher Portier, Ph.D., toxicology, Switzerland.

    Charles Jameson, toxicology, Cape Coral, FL.

    Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D., epidemiology, Los Angeles.

    Dennis Weisenburger, M.D., lymphoma pathology, Duarte.

    William R. Sawyer, Ph.D., toxicology, Sanibel, FL.

    William Pease, M.D., toxicology, Berkeley.

    Aaron Blair, Ph.D., occupational and environmental epidemiology, Bethesda, MD.

    Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., agricultural economics, Portland, OR.

    Chadhi Nabhan, M.D., hematology, oncology, Chicago, IL.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Robert Phalen, Ph.D., industrial hygiene and safety), Clear Lake, TX.

    Lorelei Mucci, ScD., epidemiology, Boston, MA.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiffs, Mr. Alva Pilliod and Mrs. Alberta Pilliod, started using Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer on their properties in the 1970s. Alva developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in his bones in 2011. The cancer spread to his pelvis and spine. Alberta was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma brain cancer in 2015.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That Monsanto knew or had reason to know that its Roundup® products were defective and were inherently dangerous and unsafe when used in the manner instructed and provided by Monsanto.

    That Monsanto did not sufficiently test, investigate, or study its Roundup® products and, specifically, the active ingredient glyphosate.

    That Monsanto knew or should have known at the time of marketing its Roundup® products that exposure to Roundup®, and specifically, its active ingredient glyphosate, could result in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

    That Monsanto did not conduct adequate post-marketing surveillance of its Roundup® products.

    That Monsanto could have employed safer alternative designs and formulations.

    That information provided by Monsanto failed to contain sufficient warnings and precautions that would have enabled those exposed, such as Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, to utilize the products safely and with adequate protection. Instead, Monsanto disseminated information that was inaccurate and misleading and which failed to communicate accurately or adequately the comparative severity, duration, and extent of the risk of injuries associated with use of and/or exposure to Roundup® and glyphosate; continued to aggressively promote the efficacy of its products, even after it knew or should have known of the unreasonable risks from use or exposure; and concealed, downplayed, or otherwise suppressed, through aggressive marketing and promotion, any information or research about the risks and dangers of exposure to Roundup® and glyphosate.

    That Monsanto systematically downplayed contrary evidence about the risks, incidence and prevalence of the side effects of Roundup®.

    That Monsanto continued the manufacture and sale of its products with the knowledge that the products were unreasonably unsafe and dangerous.

    The complaint cites studies concluding that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (“IARC”) classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen” based on a review of the available literature which included over 1,000 studies.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That given the extensive body of scientific research and the international consensus among leading health regulators that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, Monsanto had no duty, or factual basis to warn about NHL, and that the product was approved as one that can be used safely as directed.

    That before 2015, no reputable, recognized scientific body in the world had drawn the conclusion that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen and that the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s hazard assessment and opinion on glyphosate is and remains an outlier, as leading regulatory authorities worldwide have continued to reaffirm their determinations that glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, based on their own independent risk assessments.

    That each of the plaintiffs carried multiple risk factors for the development of NHL, including a prior history of cancer, obesity, tobacco abuse, and other auto immune conditions – risks that were recognized, but diminished by plaintiffs’ experts who testified on specific causation.

    That the evidence established that Monsanto’s actions were aligned with regulatory approvals worldwide and that plaintiffs’ counsel failed to prove that Monsanto acted with “malice, oppression or fraud” as required for a punitive award.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.          

Additional Notes

Claim of Design Defect: The jury concluded that Roundup failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected when used or misused in an intended or reasonably foreseeable fashion. The jury also determined that the design of Roundup was a substantial factor in causing harm to Alva and Alberta Pilliod.

Claim of Strict Liability-Failure to Warn: The jury concluded that Roundup had potential risks that were known or knowable in light of scientific and medical knowledge that were generally accepted in the scientific community at the time of its manufacture, distribution and sale. The jury also determined that the potential risks of Roundup present a substantial danger to persons when used in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice and that ordinary consumers have not recognized the potential risks. In addition, the jury found that Monsanto failed to adequately warn of the potential risks and that the lack of sufficient warnings was a substantial factor in causing harm to Alva and Alberta Pilliod.

Claim of Negligence: The jury found that Monsanto was negligent in designing, manufacturing or supplying Roundup and that Monsanto’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to Alva and Alberta Pilliod.

Claim of Negligent Failure to Warn: The jury found that Monsanto did know or should have reasonably known that Roundup was dangerous or was likely to be dangerous when used in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice and that Monsanto knew or should have reasonably known that users would not realize the danger. The jury also concluded that Monsanto filed to adequately warn of the danger or instruct on the safe use of Roundup and that a reasonable manufacturer, distributor, or seller under the same of similar circumstances would have warned of the danger or instructed of the safe use of Roundup. Finally, that Monsanto’s failure to warn was a substantial factor in causing harm to Alva and Alberta Pilliod.

The Pilliod trial culminated in the third consecutive jury verdict against Monsanto in the Roundup cancer litigation. The three jury verdicts awarded a combined $2.424 billion in damages to the plaintiffs. More than 18,400 Roundup lawsuits are currently pending in federal and state courts throughout the country.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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