San Francisco

Jury Deliberates on Monsanto's Financial Liability for Sonoma County Man's Cancer

Attorney Jennifer Moore urged the jury, "Send that message to Monsanto loud and clear: 'No more. You have to be responsible'"

What to Know

  • Edwin Hardeman, 70, is the second plaintiff to go to trial of thousands who claim Monsanto's weedkiller caused their cancer
  • In August, a jury awarded another man $289 million after determining Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

A federal jury in San Francisco began deliberating Tuesday on whether Monsanto Co. is liable for the cancer of a Sonoma County man who sprayed Monsanto's Roundup on poison oak and weeds on his property for 26 years.

The six-person civil jury has already determined that the Roundup herbicide was a substantial factor in the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of 70-year-old Edwin Hardeman.

The jurors must now decide whether Monsanto is legally liable and if so, how much financial compensation to award Hardeman. Hardeman's attorneys are also seeking a punitive damage award on grounds of the agrochemical company's alleged willful disregard of his safety.

Monsanto attorney Brian Stekloff contended during his closing argument Tuesday morning that the company is not liable because no regulatory agency or health organization concluded that Roundup was carcinogenic as of 2012, the year Hardeman stopped using the product.

"Monsanto, consistent with science, did act responsibly and should not be held liable," Stekloff told the jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria.

Hardeman's lawyers allege that Monsanto decision makers sought to manipulate scientific conclusions and public opinion and in some cases ghostwrote studies that said that a link to cancer was unlikely.

Attorney Jennifer Moore urged the jury, "Send that message to Monsanto loud and clear: 'No more. You have to be responsible.'"

Moore asked the jury to award $200,000 in economic damages and $1 million per year for pain and suffering for the four years since Hardeman's diagnosis in 2015 and the 14 years of his expected remaining life span. She asked for a punitive award for Monsanto's alleged recklessness but did not specify an amount.

Hardeman, who now lives in Santa Rosa, testified he used Roundup from 1986 to 1988 on a property in Gualala in Mendocino County and from 1988 to 2012 on a 56-acre property in Forestville in Sonoma County. His lymphoma is now in remission following chemotherapy and other treatment, but could make him vulnerable to future illness.

Monsanto was acquired by Bayer AG of Germany last year for $63 billion.

In August, a San Francisco jury awarded another man $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages after determining Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Hardeman's case is the second to go to trial among 760 federal court lawsuits pending against Monsanto. The lawsuits were filed in U.S. district courts around the nation and transferred to Chhabria's court for judicial efficiency. Other cases are pending in state courts.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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