A COUPLE who claimed Roundup weedkiller caused their cancer were awarded £1.5billion in compensation yesterday.
The verdict is the third such courtroom loss for chemical firm Monsanto in California since August as the company faces thousands of lawsuits over the product.
A state court jury in Oakland concluded Monsanto's weed killer caused the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Alva and Alberta Pilliod each contracted.
Jurors gave each of them $1billion in punitive damages in addition to a combined $55 million in compensatory damages.
Alberta Pilliod, 76, said after the verdict that she and her husband, Alva, have each been battling cancer for the last nine years.
She says they are unable to enjoy the same activities they loved before their terrifying illnesses.
"It changed our lives forever," she said. "We couldn't do things we used to be able to do, and we really resent them for that."
One of the Pilliods lawyers, Michael Miller, conceded the $2 billion punitive damage award was likely to be reduced on appeal, but said they are prepared for a long legal battle.
A San Francisco jury last August awarded $289 million to a former golf course greens keeper who blamed his cancer on Monsanto's Roundup Ready herbicide.
But a judge later reduced the award by $200 million.
Three California trials were the first of an estimated 13,000 plaintiffs with pending lawsuits against Monsanto across the country to go to trial.
St. Louis-based Monsanto is owned by the German chemical giant Bayer A.G.
Bayer said on Monday that it would appeal the verdict.
A spokesperson said: "The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances."
The company added that none of the California verdicts has been considered by an appeals court and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers the weed killer safe.
'NO RISKS OF CONCERN'
The EPA restated its position in April, saying the active ingredient glyphosate found in the weed killer posed "no risks of concern" for people exposed to it by any means on farms, in yards and along roadsides, or as residue left on food crops.
"There is zero chance it will stand," said University of California, Hastings School of Law professor David Levine.
He said the ratio between the $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages is too high.
Levine added that judges rarely allow punitive damages to exceed four times actual damages awarded.
The California Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that any punitive damages exceeding 10 times the compensatory damages are likely unconstitutionally high.
The court didn't propose a ratio it felt correct, but said punitive damages should almost never exceed nine times actual damages, it said.
The punitive damages awarded Monday are 36 times the actual damages.
Lawsuits have battered Bayer's stock since it purchased Monsanto for $63 billion last year and Bayer's top managers are facing shareholder discontent.
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