Merril Hoge, a former running back in the NFL, is among those who believe that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer causes cancer. Earlier this month, Hoge formally filed a Roundup injury lawsuit against Monsanto – now Bayer. In the lawsuit, he, like many others, not only claims that Roundup is carcinogenic, but that the company knew its popular pesticide was dangerous.

Former NFL Player Diagnosed With Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Before playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears, Merril Hoge was a young boy growing up in Idaho. In 1977, he began working on a farm in Pocatello. Part of his responsibilities included spraying Roundup weed killer around the premises on crops, weeds, and other plants.

As a result, he was exposed to large quantities of the pesticide day in and day out, for years. However, he claims that he followed “all safety and precautionary warnings” extended by the manufacturer.

In 2003, while he was still playing in the NFL, Hoge was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The running back traced his diagnosis back to his early days on that Idaho farm. It was the only logical explanation for his devastating cancer diagnosis.

Hoge Claims Monsanto Misled Him About Risks Associated With Roundup

In his lawsuit, Hoge directly accuses Monsanto of lying about the risks associated with using Roundup weed killer. Specifically, he said Monsanto promoted the pesticide using “false, misleading, and untrue” information. Their deceitful marketing strategy deprived him of the right to make informed decisions about his health. As a result, he is “severely and permanently injured.”

Had he known about the potential dangers inherent in using Roundup weed killer, the football star might have declined to work on that farm in Idaho. At the very least, he might have declined to work on the farm in that capacity.

Why would Hoge claim that Monsanto knew about the dangers of Roundup and hid that information from consumers?

Failure to Warn

Companies that manufacture, sell, or market products have to make sure that they’re safe for consumers to use. If there are any known risks that aren’t open, apparent, or obvious to consumers, those risks must be disclosed. A company can be strictly liable for injuries if a consumer isn’t warned about a danger and subsequently gets hurt.

Hoge points out that Monsanto knew about the risks because it helps to establish this cause of action. If successful, he won’t have to prove that Monsanto was negligent in its failure to warn. Strict liability means that a company is on the hook for injuries, regardless of the care it may have exercised.

Punitive Damages

Hoge doesn’t just claim that Monsanto failed to warn him about the risks of using Roundup. He goes one step further and accuses the company of intentionally misleading him about the safety of its product. By doing this, Hoge is laying the groundwork to ask a jury to award punitive damages.

In Idaho, where Hoge’s case was filed, punitive damages can be awarded if a plaintiff can prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that a defendant’s conduct was “oppressive, fraudulent, malicious, or outrageous.”

If Monsanto knew about the risks of Roundup, hid those risks, and misled the public, that might warrant a punitive award. In fact, three California juries have already ordered Bayer to pay millions of dollars in punitive damages in other Roundup cases.

Hoge Seeks Damages for Pain and Suffering, Among Other Injuries

After receiving his cancer diagnosis, Hoge was told that chemotherapy was the best treatment option available to him. Hoge has described chemotherapy in terrifying terms, saying that the toxins “literally scream through your veins.” He conveys the anguish of “the burns, the hair loss, the fatigue of it all.”

This is something, he says, is only necessary because of his exposure to Roundup. In his lawsuit, he’s demanding compensation for this terrible pain and suffering he’s been forced to endure. In addition to damages for pain and suffering, he’s likely seeking damages for:

Who knows where Hoge’s career could have gone had he not be diagnosed with cancer in 2003, back when he was still an active player. While he’s had roles on ESPN as an analyst, he might have been able to achieve more had he stayed healthy. Battling cancer might have sidelined him from more engaging, fulfilling, and prosperous work, perhaps even as a coach or mentor. He’s asking to be compensated for the loss of these opportunities and the money he might’ve earned.