A federal jury in San Francisco began deliberating Tuesday on whether Monsanto Co.'s Roundup herbicide caused the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of a Sonoma County man.
Edwin Hardeman, 70, claims his blood cancer was caused by 26 years of spraying Roundup to kill poison oak and weeds at first in Gualala and later on a 56-acre property he and his wife owned in Forestville.
The six-member jury was instructed by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria to decide whether Roundup was a substantial factor in causing the lymphoma.
If the jury rules in favor of Hardeman, a second phase of the trial will determine Monsanto's liability and possible financial damages.
Monsanto contends there is no proof of a link between Roundup and cancer and that Hardeman's lymphoma could have resulted from a genetic mutation caused by hepatitis C. The agrochemical company was acquired last year by Bayer AG of Germany.
The case is one of more than 760 lawsuits against Monsanto that were filed in federal courts around the nation and transferred to Chhabria's court for purposes of judicial efficiency.
Chhabria has designated Hardeman's lawsuit and two others as the first three to go to trial, as a way of showing both sides the possible outcomes as a potential prelude to future settlements. Hardeman's lawsuit is the first to be tried.
Hundreds of other cases against Monsanto are pending in state courts around the nation. Last year, a San Francisco Superior Court trial ended in $289 million jury verdict, later reduced by the trial judge to $78 million, for cancer-stricken former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson of Vallejo.