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Jury orders Monsanto to pay cancer-stricken Livermore couple $2 billion

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An Alameda County Superior Court jury on Monday awarded more than $2 billion in damages from Monsanto Co. to a Livermore couple who claimed the company’s Roundup weedkiller caused both of them to develop cancer, according to a spokeswoman for the plaintiff’s lawyers.

The award to Alva and Alberta Pilliod included $1 billion each in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages for economic and non-economic losses for their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The couple’s case is the third to result in a verdict against Monsanto and is the largest judgment thus far against the agribusiness company, now owned by Bayer AG of Germany.

In the first two cases, a San Francisco Superior Court jury last year awarded former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson of Vallejo $289 million, later reduced by the trial judge to $78 million. In March, a federal jury in San Francisco granted $80 million to Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa. The three cases are the first to go to trial nationwide among more than 13,000 lawsuits filed in state and federal courts against Monsanto by people who say exposure to Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide, contributed to their cancer.

The jury in the Pilliod case found that Roundup was a substantial factor in causing the couple’s cancers and that Monsanto sold a defective product, failed to warn consumers of the dangers and was negligent. The punitive damages, according to the verdict, were for “malice, oppression or fraud” on Monsanto’s part, defined in the jury instructions as including willful and knowing disregard for human safety.

Alva Pilliod, 76, and Alberta Pilliod, 74, were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 and 2015. They testified they sprayed Roundup on weeds on several properties for three decades and believed it was safe because the product labels and television advertisements did not warn of a cancer risk.

Bayer said it will appeal the verdict. It is also appealing the previous two verdicts.

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