California Appellate Court Affirms $86 Million Roundup Verdict

The California Court of Appeals, first district, ruled against Monsanto and its parent company Bayer on Monday deciding that it does need to pay an $87 million judgment to Albert and Alva Pilliod.  Both of the plaintiffs reportedly developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after spraying Roundup on their property to control weeds for an extended period of time. 

The plaintiffs filed claims of design defect and failure to warn and asked the court for damages. Reportedly, the payment amount was determined after a six week trial where the jury awarded $55 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion for each plaintiff in punitive damages. The plaintiffs accepted a “substantially reduced” amount of $87 million in an agreement where Monsanto would stop its request for a new trial. 

In its appeal Monsanto claimed that the allegations filed against it by the Pilliods are preempted by federal law because Roundup labels were reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency, that the liability findings were not supported, and that the jury’s instruction and findings were flawed.  Further, the defendant said that the punitive damages should be reduced or eliminated. 

In a responding cross-appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the reduced awards should not have been granted and that they should instead receive the initial award.

The appellate court affirmed the previous decision, addressing each of the arguments. “It is impossible to know just exactly what caused the jury to conclude that $1 billion was an appropriate punitive damage award for each of the plaintiffs in this appeal. What we do know, from the trial court’s measured discussion of the evidence and appropriate sustaining of objections and admonishment of plaintiffs’ counsel, is that the trial court’s reduced punitive damage awards were not influenced upwards by counsel’s hyperbole or objectionable or inappropriate remarks. We conclude that the Pilliods have not shown error in the trial court’s reduction of punitive damages, and that Monsanto has not shown constitutional error in the trial court’s decision not to further reduce the punitive damages awards,” the opinion said. 

In a statement released on Monday, Bayer said that it “respectfully disagree(s)” with the ruling and argued again that the verdict was not supported. The company stated that it continues to believe that Roundup, and its active ingredient glyphosate, is safe for use. The company further noted that it plans to appeal another lawsuit with similar questions, Hardeman v. Monsanto, to the Supreme Court this month. 

The plaintiffs are represented by The Miller Firm, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, Audet & Partners, and Brady Law Group. The defendant is represented by Hinshaw & Culbertson, Evans Fears & Schuttert LLP, Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brenna & Baum LLP, Bryan Cave LLP, and Horvitz & Levy

The plaintiffs in this case filed a letter in another lawsuit where they accused Bayer of paying a plaintiff in a separate Roundup-based lawsuit to appeal their case. They claimed that Bayer was seeking to get a favorable ruling in the appellate court so that it could have an impact on other lawsuits.