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The outcome of several verdicts in litigation against the makers of the Roundup weed killer are of significance to worker’s compensation administrators who might be involved in CT claims filed b.y agricultural workers. There may, or may not be opportunities for subrogation depending on the eventual trend.

The latest development this month involved an $86.7 million damages award for a Livermore couple stricken with cancer after years of spraying Roundup weed killer. This result will now be final, after the California Supreme Court refused to hear Monsanto’s appeal.

The decision effectively upholds a 2019 jury verdict that found Monsanto was aware of the risks associated with its product and negligently failed to warn consumers, and in so doing also acted with malice, oppression or fraud.

Courthouse news reports that both Alva and Alberta Pilliod were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma that they attributed to decades of using Roundup: Alva with systemic diffuse large B-Cell lymphoma in his bones in 2011; Alberta with diagnosed with an aggressive subset of that lymphoma in her brain in 2015.

In addition to $55 million in combined compensatory damages, the jury awarded each of the Pilliods $1 billion in punitive damages. During the course of the five-week trial back May 2019, Alberta testified that she never would have bought the popular herbicide if she had known that it was brought to market based on approval studies that were found to be invalid.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith ultimately slashed the award to a total of $86.7 million, and an appellate court affirmed it in an August order where Justice Marla Miller wrote that “Monsanto’s continuing to sell Roundup after learning that the original approval studies were invalid shows conscious disregard for public health and safety.”

In other Roundup cases, two other Bay Area residents were awarded hefty damages by separate juries. In August 2018, a jury found Monsanto owed Dewayne Lee Johnson $289 million in damages – later reduced by a judge to $78 million – after finding Roundup caused his terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and a federal jury awarded Ed Hardeman $75 million in punitive damages for failing to warn him about the product’s hazards, which a a judge cut down to $20 million.

Bayer AG, which bought Monsanto for $63 billion in 2016, has since appealed the Hardeman case to U.S. Supreme Court.

However, the defendants recently secured a win in Los Angeles state court, where a jury found there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Roundup was a substantial factor in causing the rare cancer that killed a young boy.

A federal judge in Georgia also found in Bayer’s favor on a plaintiff’s failure to warn claim, ruling that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act requires the company to follow instructions by the EPA not to sell Roundup with a cancer warning on its label. An appeal is pending before the Eleventh Circuit.

In June 2020, Bayer announced a $10 billion agreement to settle a bevy of claims related to Roundup users who have contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But this year, U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria refused to approve a $2 billion deal to resolve claims from Roundup users who have not developed cancer but may be diagnosed in the future.

Bayer has also vowed to remove glyphosate-based products from retail store shelves by 2023 to prevent future litigation, though the company has consistently said that it stands behind Roundup’s safety.