ST. LOUIS – A jury awarded $1.25 million to a St. Louis man who suffered non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Bayer-Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

Twelve jurors in the Missouri 22nd Judicial Circuit Court unanimously found Bayer-Monsanto liable for John Durnell’s cancer, and nine of those 12 jurors signed the verdict to award limited damages.

The trial resulted in the first verdict against Bayer-Monsanto outside of California, and the first loss for the chemical giant in St. Louis.

Since last year, there have been several trials involving Roundup in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. Plaintiffs have argued that longtime exposure to Roundup – specifically the chemical glyphosate -gave them lymphoma and that Monsanto neglected to warn the public of its dangers. 

OnderLaw, a St. Louis-area law firm that represented Durnell, said he began using the weed killer in 1996 while maintaining his neighborhood grounds for the Soulard Restoration Project. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma several years later after discovering a painful knot.

“We are proud that John Durnell had the courage to stand up to Monsanto,” said James G. Onder, founder and managing partner of OnderLaw in a statement to FOX 2.

Reuters reports that Bayer plans to appeal the ruling. Following the ruling, a spokesperson from Bayer sent this statement to FOX 2 on Saturday:

“The jury’s verdict is mostly in the company’s favor, and we will seek an appeal of the adverse decision on the one count, which relates to product labeling, and which is inconsistent with the conclusions of expert regulators worldwide and preempted by federal law. While we have great sympathy for the plaintiff in this case, we are confident that our products can be used safely and are not carcinogenic, consistent with the assessments of expert regulators worldwide and the weight of the extensive body of scientific evidence from more than four decades of studies.

“The company has a winning record in the Roundup litigation and has won nine of the last ten cases at trial.

“We continue to stand behind the safety of Roundup and will defend the safety of our products and our good faith actions in any future litigation.”

There remains some scientific debate over glyphosate as a cancer-causing agent. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 identified glyphosate as a possible carcinogen.

However, a WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) joint committee on pesticides announced in 2016 that glyphosate did not pose a significant health risk to humans. Findings from the Environmental Protection Agency state that “glyphosate is unlikely to be a human carcinogen.”

Durnell was represented by Wylie Blair, Greg Pals, and Scott Sifton from St. Louis-based OnderLaw; Roe Frazer, Trey Frazer, and Grant LaBar from Nashville-based Frazer Law Firm; and Isaac Conner from Manson, Johnson, Conner PLLC of Nashville.

Bayer-Monsanto was represented by Shayna Cook of Chicago’s Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum, and Mike Brown of Baltimore-based Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

Monsanto was founded in St. Louis in 1901 and named for founder John Francis Queeny’s wife’s maiden name. The company initially manufactured food additives before expanding to industrial chemicals. Over the next several decades, Monsanto would produce the insecticide DDT, the infamous herbicide Agent Orange, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), bovine growth hormone, and genetically engineered crop seeds.

Monsanto stopped producing PCBs in 1977 amid concerns of contamination of land and water sources. The company’s Sauget plant along Dead Creek had been the country’s biggest producer of PCBs in the years prior. That plant was eventually designated a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress banned the production of PCBs in 1979.

In 1984, Monsanto settled a class-action lawsuit by Vietnam veterans for injuries suffered due to Agent Orange exposure.

Monsanto moved its headquarters from Downtown St. Louis to Creve Coeur in 1957 and launched its agricultural division in 1961.

Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2016 for $66 billion.

In June 2020, Bayer agreed to pay $10.9 billion to settle approximately three-quarters of existing Roundup claims against its subsidiary—both filed and unfiled claims—at the time.