SAN FRANCISCO — A U.S. jury on Wednesday awarded $80 million in damages to a California man who blamed Roundup weed killer for his cancer, in a case that his attorneys say could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits.
The six-person jury in San Francisco returned its verdict in favor of Edwin Hardeman, 70, who said he used Roundup products to treat poison oak, overgrowth and weeds on his San Francisco Bay Area property for years. The same jury previously found that Roundup was a substantial factor in Hardeman's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Agribusiness giant Monsanto says studies have established that the active ingredient in its widely used weed killer, glyphosate, is safe. The company said it will appeal.
"We are disappointed with the jury's decision, but this verdict does not change the weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide that support the safety of our glyphosate-based herbicides and that they are not carcinogenic," according to a statement from Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year.
A different jury in August awarded another man $289 million, but a judge later slashed it to $78 million. Monsanto has appealed.
Hardeman's trial may be more significant than that case. U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed Hardeman's case and two others "bellwether trials."
The outcome of such cases can help attorneys decide whether to keep fighting similar lawsuits or settle them. Legal experts said verdicts in favor of Hardeman and the other test plaintiffs would give their attorneys a strong bargaining position in any settlement talks for the remaining cases before Chhabria.
Many government regulators have rejected a link between cancer and glyphosate. Monsanto has vehemently denied such a connection, saying hundreds of studies have established that the chemical is safe.
Monsanto developed glyphosate in the 1970s, and the weed killer is now sold in more than 160 countries and widely used in the U.S.
The herbicide came under increasing scrutiny after the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classified it as a "probable human carcinogen" in 2015.
Lawsuits against Monsanto followed, and thousands are now pending nationwide.
Monsanto has attacked the international research agency's opinion as an outlier. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate is safe for people when used in accordance with label directions.