The manufacturers of consumer products have a duty to perform reasonable tests to ensure that their product is safe for use. In the event that a product may be dangerous to use, manufacturers are required to adequately warn consumers of the dangers that are known. manufacturers can be held accountable for significant damages in the event that their products harm people. If manufacturers fail to disclose known risks of a product, they could be required to pay damages well in excess of the actual harm caused to a victim by their product. The California Court of Appeals recently affirmed a substantial verdict against Monsanto, the manufacturer of the popular weed control product Roundup, which contained a significant amount of punitive damages against the company.
The plaintiffs in the recently decided case are a married couple who used roundup on their properties from the 1980s until 2015. Based on the information contained in the packaging and from advertisements, the plaintiffs did not think that Roundup was a dangerous chemical, and they used it liberally on their properties without gloves or other protective equipment. After using the product for years, both plaintiffs developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that has been linked to the use of Roundup and other herbicides. The plaintiffs sued the defendant in state court, alleging that the product was dangerous and defective and that the defendant failed to warn consumers about dangers that they knew of.
What Was the Outcome of the Roundup Trial?
During a six-week trial, witnesses testified that the defendant had access to information that their product caused cancer, and failed to warn consumers of the risk. Additionally, witnesses testified that the use of gloves and other safety equipment could significantly reduce the risk of cancer, however, the product label did not advise consumers to use protective equipment. Witnesses also testified that the plaintiffs’ use of Roundup was a substantial contributing factor in the development of their cancer. The jury ultimately ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on all claims, initially awarding tens of millions of compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages against the company. The punitive damages were reduced by the court, and the final verdict totaled approximately $86 million.
The defendant appealed the ruling to the state court of appeals, arguing in part that the $69 million in punitive damages levied against the defendant was constitutionally impermissible. On appeal, the high court disagreed with the defendant, finding that the defendant made continuous efforts to impede, discourage, or distort the scientific inquiry about the dangers of their product and that those actions were reprehensible and showed a conscious disregard for health. As a result of this conduct, a punitive damage award of 4x the compensatory damage award was entirely appropriate. As a result of the high court ruling, the defendant will be required to pay the plaintiffs the full amount of the adjusted verdict.
Contact an Experienced Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer after using Roundup or other pesticide products, you may be entitled to significant compensation from the product manufacturer. The Maryland product liability attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC are experienced handling products liability cases and we understand how to hold manufacturers accountable for marketing dangerous products to consumers. Our attorneys work tirelessly for our clients who have been hurt by dangerous products. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call us today at 800-654-1949.