A US federal judge has reduced the $80 million punitive damages award a jury ordered Monsanto to pay to California cancer victim to $25 million.
Judge Vince Chhabria said he was required to diminish the punitive damages because it went beyond constitutional limits set by the US Supreme Court. According to him, the higher award was “constitutionally impermissible” because it was nearly 15 times the compensatory damages award.
However, he added that Monsanto “deserves to be punished.” He wrote in the ruling that the “evidence presented at trial about Monsanto’s behavior betrayed a lack of concern about the risk that its product might be carcinogenic.”
“Despite years of colorable claims in the scientific community that Roundup causes NHL (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), Monsanto presented minimal evidence suggesting that it was interested in getting to the bottom of those claims…” Chhabria said, adding:
“While Monsanto repeatedly intones that it stands by the safety of its product, the evidence at trial painted the picture of a company focused on attacking or undermining the people who raised concerns, to the exclusion of being an objective arbiter of Roundup’s safety.”
He also noted there was no evidence that Monsanto actually hid evidence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or “had managed to capture the EPA.”
In March, a jury found that glyphosate was a likely cause of 70-year-old Edwin Hardeman’s diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Hardeman was diagnosed in 2014, after spraying Roundup on his property for decades. He is now in remission.
Jurors awarded him $200,000 for economic losses, $3 million for past pain and suffering, another $2 million for emotional distress in his future years, and $75 million in punitive damages.
Hardeman may appeal the judge’s decision to reduce the damages award, which one of his lawyers called a “reversible error.”
He is one of more than 13,400 plaintiffs who have sued Monsanto and its owner Bayer over Roundup, saying the herbicide’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is unsafe.
Bayer, which bought Monsanto last year for $63 billion, called Chhabria’s decision “a step in the right direction,” adding that it still plans to appeal.
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