Judge Slashes Couple’s Award in Roundup Cancer Case

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a Livermore couple who attributed their cancer diagnoses to years of Roundup use, will see only a fraction of the $2 billion in punitive damages a jury awarded them in May. A state trial judge cut their award down considerably in an order Thursday to a total of $86.7 million, which breaks down to about $30 million for Alva and $56 million for Alberta.

The $86.76 million figure includes their compensatory damages for pain and suffering and medical bills, which Smith also cut.

Judge Winifred Smith said in a tentative ruling ahead of a hearing last week that she would probably reduce the award on constitutional grounds, but found that the Pilliods had presented enough evidence to show that the weed killer probably caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

She also found that agrochemical giant Monsanto failed to warn the Pilliods about the hazards of their product and tried to suppress the scientific probe of Roundup’s main ingredient glyphosate. She denied the company a new trial on those grounds.

“This a major victory for the Pilliods. The judge rejected every argument Monsanto raised and sustained a very substantial verdict,” their attorney Brent Wisner said in a statement. “While we believe the reduction in damages does not fairly capture the pain and suffering experienced by Alva and Alberta, the overall result is a big win.”

The Pilliods are among hundreds suing the agrochemical company after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate, the main chemical compound in Roundup, a probable human carcinogen in 2015.

Both were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which they blame on years of regular Roundup use. Alva was diagnosed with systemic diffuse large B-Cell lymphoma in his bones in 2011; Alberta was diagnosed with an aggressive subset of that lymphoma in her brain in 2015.

In a statement, Bayer vowed to appeal Smith’s ruling, protesting that regulators around the world have deemed glyphosate safe.

“The court’s decision to reduce the punitive, non-economic, and future medical damage awards is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial and conflict with the extensive body of reliable science and conclusions of leading health regulators worldwide that confirms glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic,” the company said, adding that it will take the case to the appellate level.

The Pilliods’ case follows two previous Roundup trials that resulted in sizable plaintiff verdicts. Ed Hardeman was awarded $75 million in punitive damages after a federal trial in March and Dewayne Johnson was awarded $289 million in his state case last August. Both verdicts were slashed significantly – to a respective $20 million and $78 million.

Attorney Mike Miller, who represented Johnson and the Pilliods, said in an email late Thursday that he counts Smith’s ruling as a victory, though the appellate court will likely reinstate the Pilliods’ compensatory damages.

“We have four plaintiffs with post trial wins with an average win of forty six million dollars,” he said. “Monsanto/Bayer is facing thousands of more trials. Specifically we believe the appeals court will reinstate Pilliods’ full verdict for compensatory damages. That said we have tremendous respect for the trial judge and appreciate her patience.”

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