Monsanto's Roundup blamed for cancer. $2 billion. Alameda County.
Couple uses Roundup weed killer on their properties. This trial culminated in the third consecutive jury verdict against Monsanto in the Roundup cancer litigation.
- 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
- Gross Verdict or Award: $2.055,000,000
- Economic Damages:
- Non-Economic Damages:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: