Lawyers for Edwin Hardeman presented their closing argument today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, asking jurors to punish Monsanto for failing to warn about the cancer risks of its Roundup herbicide.
Attorney Jennifer Moore presented the close for the plaintiff’s legal team, and Monsanto attorney Brian Stekloff made his closing argument, winding down a month-long trial that already recorded a first phase jury verdict finding Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The jury’s decision now is simply a matter of money – whether or not Monsanto should pay damages, including punitive damages, to Hardeman. Though jurors already decided Roundup caused the harm to Hardeman, they have yet to determine if Monsanto should be held responsible for that harm. The jury instructions call for jurors to answer three questions in order to be able to determine damages: Was Roundup’s design defective? Did Roundup lacked sufficient warning of potential risks? And was Monsanto negligent by not using reasonable care to warn about the risks posed by Roundup?
Monsanto’s attorneys have not changed their position that Roundup does not cause cancer. But for the issue of liability they have argued that during the period Hardeman used Roundup – from 1986 to 2012 – no regulatory or health organization required a warning on Roundup labels regarding cancer, and Monsanto had no evidence leading it to believe a warning was necessary.
In testimony Monday, former Monsanto Chairman Hugh Grant defended the company’s conduct surrounding Roundup though he acknowledged the company never did any epidemiology study of Roundup even though the company spent more than $1 billion annually researching new products.
“Monsanto acted responsibly,” company attorney Brian Stekloff told the jury last week. Telling jurors “this is not a popularity contest,” he said there was no evidence Monsanto acted negligently. “Monsanto, consistent with the science, consistent with how the science was being viewed around the rest of the world, did act responsibly and should not be found liable,” he said.
Hardeman’s attorneys have told jurors that there was a wealth of scientific evidence showing cancer risks associated with Roundup but Monsanto chose to try to suppress and/or discredit the information rather than warn customers like Hardeman.
If the jurors find that Monsanto is liable, the parties have already agreed to a figure of $200,967.10 for economic losses. But jurors could elect to add ‘noneconomic damages” to the tally, and they could add punitive damages.
Judge Vince Chhabria said in an earlier ruling that there was “a great deal of evidence” to support a punitive damages award against Monsanto and to show that the company “has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of its product.”
The judge said there is “strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.”
In the first Roundup cancer trial, a jury last August awarded $289 million to plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, though the judge reduced the verdict to $78 million.