SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Roundup weed killer was a substantial factor in a California man's cancer, a jury determined Tuesday in the first phase of a trial that attorneys said could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits.
The unanimous verdict by the six-person jury in federal court in San Francisco came in a lawsuit filed against Roundup's manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto. Edwin Hardeman, 70, was the second plaintiff to go to trial out of thousands around the country who claim the weed killer causes cancer.
Monsanto says studies have established that Roundup's active ingredient, glyphosate, is safe.
A San Francisco jury in August awarded another man $289 million after determining Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A judge later slashed the award to $78 million, and Monsanto has appealed.
Hardeman's trial is before a different judge and may be more significant. U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed Hardeman's case and two others "bellwether trials."
The outcome of such cases can help attorneys decide whether to keep fighting similar lawsuits or settle them. Legal experts said a jury verdict in favor of Hardeman and the other test plaintiffs would give their attorneys a strong bargaining position in any settlement talks for the remaining cases before Chhabria.
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The judge had split Hardeman's trial into two phases. Hardeman's attorneys first had to convince jurors that using Roundup was a significant factor in his cancer before they could make arguments for damages.
The trial will now proceed to the second phase to determine whether the company is liable and if so, for how much.
Hardeman declined to comment outside court.
"This has been a long time coming for Mr. Hardeman," said one of his attorneys, Jennifer Moore. "He's very pleased he had his day in court, and we're looking forward to phase two."
Many government regulators have rejected a link between cancer and glyphosate. Monsanto has vehemently denied such a connection, saying hundreds of studies have established that the chemical is safe.
Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, said in a statement after the verdict that it continues to "believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer."