A California man who successfully claimed that repeated exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup led to his cancer diagnosis asked the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the company’s appeal of a Ninth Circuit ruling that affirmed a jury verdict awarding him $25 million, saying the ruling abides by precedent against the company’s claims.
Plaintiff Edwin Hardeman questioned Monsanto’s arguments that his state of California’s failure-to-warn claims are preempted by federal law and that experts testifying on Hardeman’s behalf were allowed to do so under a “uniquely lenient” standard in district court.
In May, the Ninth Circuit ruled that California’s failure-to-warn claims were not preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act as the requirements of both state and federal laws were similarly consistent. According to the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, under the federal law, manufacturers must provide label warnings “adequate to protect health and environment,” and California law mandates warnings about dangers that a “reasonably prudent” manufacturer would know about.
In a writ of certiorari filed in August, Monsanto argued that the experts who testified on behalf of Hardeman were admitted into court under a “uniquely lenient” standard with potential “consequences for tens of thousands of pending Roundup cases.” Hardeman, in the opposition brief, points out that other jurisdictions with purportedly “stricter” standards have supported rulings similar to that of the Ninth Circuit.
Since Monsanto filed its appeal to the high court, seven legal and trade groups, including the pro-business nonprofits Washington Legal Foundation and Retail Litigation Center Inc., filed amicus briefs in support of Monsanto’s request.
In March 2019, a unanimous, six-person, California jury found that Monsanto was liable on a failure-to-warn claim, a negligence claim and a design defect claim in a federal bellwether trial.
While the jury awarded Hardeman about $80 million in future, past and punitive damages, the federal judge overseeing the case cut down the punitive damages award to $20 million.