The unanimous verdict issued Friday awarded John McKivison, 49, of Lycoming County, $250 million in compensatory damages, and $2 billion in punitive damages. The jury found that Roundup causes cancer, and that Monsanto was negligent and failed to warn consumers of the dangers of the product, said McKivison’s attorneys, Tom Kline of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia, and Jason Itkin of Houston-based Arnold & Itkin.
“We are thankful that this unanimous jury found that Bayer/Monsanto’s Roundup was responsible for causing John McKivison’s blood cancer,” Kline and Itkin said in a statement. “The jury’s punitive damages award sends a clear message that this multi-national corporation needs top to bottom change.”
McKivison’s attorneys said that he began using Roundup at his job at a warehouse when he was in his 20s. Because the product killed weeds effectively at his work, McKivison began spraying it regularly at his family’s home over the next two decades, his attorneys said. McKivison’s personal properties were as large as two acres, and he used the weed killer on food plots he and his family planted to attract wildlife. At one point, his attorneys said, he dispersed Roundup on his property from a tractor in 25- to 30-gallon loads.
“The difference in his life, truly, is that he was exposed to Roundup,” Kline said.
At issue in the case was the chemical glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, as well as other ingredients in the weed killer. Monsanto developed glyphosate in 1974, and it has since become one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide, despite concerns that the chemical is carcinogenic. The lawsuit also named Nouryon, a Radnor-based chemical company that manufacturers another ingredient in Roundup known as a “surfactant” that helps the herbicide effectively kill weeds.
World agencies have differed on glyphosate’s carcinogenic properties.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as part of a group of chemicals that are “probably carcinogenic to humans.”