Relatives of a former Inglewood Unified groundskeeper filed a lawsuit Monday against the school district and the Monsanto Corp. and its parent company, Bayer AG, alleging his 2013 death from cancer was attributable to the use of the herbicide Roundup.
Halaevalu Tuuholoaki, the widow of Ofa Tuuholoaki, and her son, Timothy, brought the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging wrongful death, negligence, fraud, strict liability and breach of implied warranty. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.
An IUSD representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Monsanto has maintained in previous lawsuits over Roundup that most current scientific information and the uniform conclusions of foreign and domestic regulatory agencies have found there is no causal link between exposure to Roundup and cancer.
Ofa Tuuholoaki was hired by the IUSD in 1989 and performed landscaping and groundskeeping. He was provided with Roundup by the district and was required to use the weed killer daily, according to the lawsuit.
From 2007-10, the district was aware of the harmful nature of Roundup and that the herbicide would likely cause cancer and death to those using the product on a regular basis, but did not advise its employees, the suit alleges.
“The district determined that it was not its responsibility to warn, notify, inform and/or share its discovery of the harmful effects of Roundup with its employees,” the complaint says.
Despite being aware of Roundup’s harmful effects, the district continued to purchase and distribute the herbicide to its employees and instructed them to use Roundup in connection with their daily work, the suit alleges. Tuuholoaki used Roundup on a regular basis without having any idea that the product was so harmful and deadly, according to the plaintiffs.
“As a result of all of his … repeated exposure to Roundup, (Tuuholoaki) contracted cancer and tragically died in August 2013,” according to the suit, which does not state how old he was or what type of cancer he had.
After a jury hearing a case involving another groundskeeper elsewhere in the state awarded a large verdict against Monsanto, the plaintiffs in the Tuuholoaki case “became suspicious” and began doing research, the suit says.
“Plaintiffs were able to obtain sufficient information and intelligence which revealed the reckless conduct, the district’s negligence and the grim truth that (Tuuholoaki’s) regular exposure to Roundup had caused his death, the suit alleges.