“A responsible company would test its product. A responsible company would tell their customers if they knew it causes cancer.” These are the words that Edwin Hardeman’s attorney used to send a San Francisco jury into back deliberations; this time to put a value on Hardeman’s life and his battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Aimee Wagstaff, one of Hardeman’s attorneys in the trial, pushed the jury to come back with an amount that would “send a message” to the corporation.
The move toward a penalty phase in the Hardeman matter comes after the jury deliberated for around a week before determining that Roundup was indeed a “substantial factor” in causing his cancer. The trial, which lasted for weeks, was a contentious one that forced the jury to sit through and process endless hours of scientific testimony and saw Wagstaff frequently at odds with the judge hearing the case. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria fined Wagstaff $500 at one point for her introduction of evidence that he had previously prohibited and questioned her frequent personification of Hardeman and detailed descriptions of the impacts his diagnosis has had on his life and that of his family.
In the end, that value was placed at $80.3 million; with $5.3 million awarded in compensatory damages and the remaining $75 million awarded punitively. The verdict marks Bayer’s second loss in as many trials over the role of glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer. Bayer acquired Monsanto in June of 2018 for $63 billion. The first loss was to Dewayne Johnson, a California school groundskeeper who was the first to attack the source of the ‘scientific evidence’ the secretive corporation was using to defend the safety of its chemicals. In many cases, that source turned out to be Monsanto themselves. The corporation’s efforts not only included ghostwriting their own scientific papers but also highly coordinated efforts to shape the public and regulatory conversations around the impact of glyphosate and Roundup on human health.
While Hardeman’s award is expected to be cut, the losses are piling up for Bayer and the conversation; at least outside of Bayer, is turning toward settlement. The corporation continues to stand behind the safety of glyphosate and has rejected the idea, but industry analysts and investors are questioning the strategy when both cases that have gone to trial thus far have resulted in large verdicts for the plaintiff.