Jury awards couple $2 billion in weed killer cancer trial

A jury in Oakland, California, has awarded a couple $2 billion in punitive damages after concluding that sustained exposure to Monsanto Co.’s popular Roundup weed killer led to their cancer diagnoses. The couple will receive an additional $55 million for pain and suffering and to cover medical expenses.

The Alameda County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days before reaching a verdict.

Seventy-six-year-old Alva and 74-year-old Alberta Pilliod used Roundup for about 30 years for residential landscaping, which the jury believed played a “substantial factor” in their development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Alva was diagnosed in 2011; his wife, Alberta, received the same diagnosis four years later. They are both in remission.

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Bayer, Monsanto’s parent company, released a statement claiming that the couple had “long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” and countered allegations that an active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has been linked to cancer. Bayer said it plans to appeal Monday’s verdict.

“The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe,” an attorney for the couple, R. Brent Wisner, said in a statement sent to CBS News. “Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda.”

This is the third lawsuit related to Roundup that Monsanto has lost in the state of California. Wisner co-represented plaintiffs in the prior two lawsuits as well. In the first, school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson was ultimately awarded $78.5 million. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014 and regularly spraying a high-concentration version of Roundup known as Ranger Pro as part of his job from 2012 to 2016.

A California federal court jury awarded more than $80 million to Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgekin’s lymphoma in 2015. Hardeman had used Roundup for more than 25 years on his Sonoma property.

Lawsuits’ effect on Bayer stock price

The lawsuits have battered Bayer’s stock since it purchased Monsanto for $63 billion last year, The Associated Press reports.

Chairman Werner Wenning told shareholders at Bayer’s annual general meeting last month that company leaders “very much regret” falls in its share price. At the same time, CEO Werner Baumann insisted that “the acquisition of Monsanto was and remains the right move for Bayer.”

Bayer’s stock price closed Monday at $15.91 a share, down 45 cents or 2.76 percent per share, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The verdict was announced after the trading session closed, AP points out.

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