The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is currently hearing an appeal on a 2019 Roundup cancer verdict that awarded $80 million to a man diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Though it is still early, court watchers believe that the court is unlikely to overturn the jury’s verdict.
At issue is the question of whether a jury can hold Monsanto responsible for not having warned of the risk of Roundup cancer on its label when the Environmental Protection Agency had concluded that product labeling about risk would violate federal law for being false and misleading. While the jury had based its punitive damages on the company’s failure to warn, its attorneys argued that the company could not have legally done so.
State vs Federal Law Complicates Roundup Cancer Question
While the attorneys defending Monsanto against Roundup cancer liability argued that the company was following U.S. EPA’s guidance, the court pondered the fact that the EPA ruling did not override California’s state laws regarding labeling and liability. There were also questions about whether the judge in the case had admitted evidence that might not have been admitted in other courts.
The Roundup cancer trial filed by Mr. Hardeman had been the very first to be heard by judge Chhabria, who runs the multidistrict court that will hear 3,600 cases in the Northern District of California. Though only $200,000 was awarded for the victim’s economic damages, the jury also provided him with $5.6 million in past and future economic damages and $75 million in punitive damages, which are meant to send a message of punishment and warning about wrongdoing. The judge reduced the punitive damages to $20 million, an action which Mr. Hardeman’s attorneys are appealing on the basis that Monsanto deserved to pay the high amount because it had secretly written the studies that the EPA had relied upon in ruling the chemical safe.