New Wave of Arizona Lawsuits Hits Monsanto as Jury Awards $81M to Victim

Roundup, the popular weed killer made by Monsanto.
Roundup, the popular weed killer made by Monsanto. Mike Mozart via Flickr
A group of Arizonans filed a fresh slew of lawsuits against Monsanto this week, and a federal jury awarded a California man nearly $81 million after determining that the weed killer Roundup contributed to his cancer.

More than two dozen suits related to the Monsanto product were filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday. The attorney for the plaintiffs, David Diamond, said a few more could be filed in the coming days. The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages for civil counts including negligence and "failure to warn."

Among the plaintiffs were patients who had been diagnosed with cancer, as well as family members of individuals who have died from cancer. Roundup caused that cancer, the lawsuits claim, and Monsanto hid the dangers of Roundup from the public, including the plaintiffs.

Some of the plaintiffs worked in vineyards or on farms. Others sprayed Roundup on their own land or home gardens, Diamond said.

Monsanto is a global biotech corporation headquartered in Missouri. It began marketing Roundup in 1974. Its active ingredient is glyphosate, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified in 2015 as "probably carcinogenic to humans." The cancers most commonly associated with exposure to the herbicide include non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

In one case filed this week, a resident of Avondale used Roundup in liquid form from 2001 to 2015. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma around 2007 and has since been treated, the lawsuit said. During the years he used Roundup, he did not know how dangerous it was.

Another of the lawsuits was filed by a woman in Casa Grande, after a relative was exposed to Roundup for 37 years. He died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on January 15, according to the suit. Another plaintiff was a woman in Avondale who said she was exposed to Roundup for a decade, from 1989 to 1999, and diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in October 1999.

Nevertheless, Monsanto represents Roundup as safe to both people and the environment, the lawsuits state.

"Monsanto has repeatedly proclaimed and continues to proclaim to the world, and particularly to United States consumers, that glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup, created no unreasonable risks to human health or to the environment," they say.

Diamond said the cases would end up being transferred to a federal judge in San Francisco, because a multidistrict judge is charge of federal Monsanto cases. At some point, however, some of the cases could be returned to Arizona.

Diamond also represents more than a dozen Arizonans who sued Monsanto last year, also alleging that they developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after using Roundup. The number of lawsuits against Monsanto surged after the IARC's finding that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic to humans.

Also on Wednesday, a jury in San Francisco ordered the company to pay $5.9 million in compensatory damages, $75 million in punitive damages, and $200,000 for medical costs to Edwin Hardeman, who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Last year, German biotech giant Bayer AG purchased Monsanto for $63 billion.
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Elizabeth Whitman was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from March 2019 to April 2020.