Judge Rules Controversial Roundup Cases Can Proceed to Jury Trial
A federal judge ruled that hundreds of lawsuits brought to court against Monsanto Co., the creator of the weed killer Roundup, can go to trial, denying Monsanto’s requests for dismissal. The court ruled there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the cases against the company regarding allegations that the controversial glyphosate, one of the main ingredients in Roundup, is cancer-causing. Monsanto was recently acquired by Bayer AG for $62.5 billion.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled last September that glyphosate is likely not carcinogenic to humans. However, the World Health Organization in 2015 classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Monsanto developed its controversial Roundup almost forty years ago and it has been used on crops for decades. It is still commonly used as a weed killer in many homes.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco, appointed by former President Barack Obama, said the plaintiffs’ expert opinions were “shaky” and decided to exclude the opinions of two scientists altogether. Based on the findings of the four experts he allowed, however, he said a jury could reasonably conclude that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans. The plaintiffs will need to prove Roundup caused cancer in each of the individuals whose cases will be selected for test trials. Chhabria said this would be a “daunting challenge.” The proceedings before the Court involved its obligation under the Supreme Court Case of Daubert v. Merrill to act as a gatekeeper to ensure that expert testimony offered at trial is founded upon sound scientific methodology.
The 400 lawsuits brought forth by plaintiffs and their attorneys claiming Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cell cancer, over an extended period of time using the product have been consolidated in In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 2741). Under the Federal Rules, Judge Chhabria is now charged with conducting all pre-trial proceedings in the combined litigation. Lead counsel for the plaintiffs include Aimee Wagstaff, of Andrus Wagstaff, Denver, CO; Robin Greenwald of Weitz and Luxenberg of New York City, N.Y.; and Mike Miller of the Miller Law Firm, of Alexandria, VA.
Attorney Aimee Wagstaff said she was pleased her clients will have their day in court. Wagstaff said, “Today’s ruling marks a significant victory in the fight for justice on behalf of our clients who were injured by exposure to Roundup. We look forward to our day in court and the opportunity to hold Monsanto accountable.”
Monsanto faces 5,000 controversial lawsuits nationwide alleging Roundup caused cancer, mainly in state courts. The company has repeatedly denied all allegations and issued a statement indicating there is “absolutely no connection between glyphosate and cancer” and this is supported by more than 800 scientific studies and reviews, including the EPA.
The California state judge who handles the most Roundup cases in her docket has been attending the hearings before Chhabria, and judges from all other involved in the litigation have been closely watching. Additional lawsuits have been filed in State Court in Missouri, California, Montana, and Delaware. Those cases are following independent tracks in the system.