$86M Award to Couple for RoundUp Use Upheld by CA Supreme Court

Bottles of Roundup at the store

There have been several decisions handed down by U.S. courts of law regarding the use of consumer RoundUp products over recent years. The claims levied against the pharmaceutical giant Bayer, or the former producer of RoundUp products (Monsanto) have argued that long-term use of RoundUp products caused cancer in consumers. Three prominent cases were decided in the claimants' favor, but Bayer recently challenged the outcomes of these cases individually. 

One challenge that was recently heard by the court in California involved the court's initial ruling on the Alva and Alberta Pilliod v. Monsanto Co. case. Below we discuss Bayer's challenge and some background information on the initial Pilliod case. We also tackle the court's most recent ruling on Bayer's challenge to this case, and whether or not you can expect this update to affect new or ongoing RoundUp litigation.

An Important Update in RoundUp Litigation

On November 17th, 2021, California's highest court came to a decision on Bayer's challenge to a prior ruling. The original case involved the Pilliod couple who had previously been awarded $86.2 million when the two developed cancer after three decades of using Bayer's RoundUp products on the yards of their four residential properties. The California court ruled against Bayer's challenge, reinforcing the original decision that was initially ruled in the Pilliod couple's favor.

The Alberta and Alva Pilliod V. Monsanto Co. Case

The original case involved Alberta and Alva Pilliod, a couple living in Livermore, California who used RoundUp for approximately thirty years and who later developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, an aggressive type of blood and lymph cancer. Alva Pilliod was diagnosed in 2013 at the age of 69, while Alberta was diagnosed in 2017 at age 70. The two claimed they had used RoundUp on their lawns and gardens for three decades before their diagnoses, starting back in 1982. 

Upon learning of other cancer claims alleging a link to the use of RoundUp products, the couple stopped using the RoundUp herbicide in 2016. The Pilliods then filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, the producer of RoundUp at the time before the Bayer acquisition. The Pilliod case was the third case of its kind to reach court, and a decision was made in 2019. 

After hearing conflicting medical testimonies from outside professionals and Monsanto representatives, the court ruled in Alva and Alberta's favor. 

Originally, Alberta Pilliod was awarded $37 million, while Alva Pilliod was awarded $18 million in financial compensation. The couple was also awarded $2 billion in punitive damages to account for malicious conduct on the part of Monsanto. However, the California Supreme Court places limits on certain types of damages such that these amounts were later reduced to a total of $86.2 million.

The Pilliod case was the third and most recent case that went before a jury. Since then, Bayer, who acquired Monsanto in 2018, has settled a majority of RoundUp cases outside of court. The pharmaceutical giant has also set aside a settlement fund of up to $2 billion to be used on similar cases. Bayer has also released a five-point plan to address ongoing and future RoundUp litigation.

Monsanto's Challenge and California's Supreme Court Ruling

Bayer recently filed an appeal of the Pilliod case in the hopes that a review would overturn or cut the damages initially awarded to the couple. The company argued several points, including their claim that the Pilliod's case was preempted by federal law. Bayer also argued that the company's liability was not sufficiently supported by the evidence presented at trial. Lastly, the company argued that missteps on the part of the plaintiff's counsel were prejudicial.

However, in November of 2021, the California appeals court denied the review, therefore upholding the $86 million in damages previously awarded to the Pilliod couple. The appeals court stated that Monsanto, the company producing RoundUp at the time, had shown a conscious disregard for the safety of others when it failed to inform the public about the potential carcinogenic nature of RoundUp products which could be found in stores across the U.S. Justice Marla Miller dismissed each of the arguments raised by Bayer, and stated in the ruling that California residents can still sue Bayer on these grounds and in accordance with California's consumer safety laws.

Bayer released a statement saying that the company disagreed with the court's decision to uphold the initial ruling: "We continue to stand strongly behind the safety of Roundup, a position supported by assessments of expert regulators worldwide as well as the overwhelming weight of four decades of extensive science." 

While still standing behind their RoundUp products, the pharmaceutical giant still has plans to remove glyphosate, the alleged cancer-causing ingredient in RoundUp products, from their consumer-based RoundUp products starting in 2023. At the same time, the company has set aside a fund to settle future RoundUp litigation as cases arise, but said it plans to be more aggressive in these settlement negotiations going forward.

What Does This Decision Mean for My RoundUp Case?

So far there have been three prominent RoundUp cases that have been ruled in favor of the claimants who allege their cancer developed after long-term use of RoundUp products. The California Supreme Court's decision to uphold a prior ruling in favor of the Pilliods may indicate that Monsanto failed to inform consumers of the potential health and safety risks associated with their RoundUp products. However, each RoundUp case is unique. Whether or not this ruling is any indication for future rulings on similar RoundUp cases depends on the specifics of your case. 

To learn more about RoundUp litigation, or to discuss your claim with an experienced products liability attorney, contact the law offices of Cooney & Conway. You can use our free case evaluation form found here to get started.