CMBG3 Law previously reported on the start of the first trial in the country in which allegations that glysophate in Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro weed killers cause cancer are being presented to the jury. Friday concluded the first week of trial and In opening statements plaintiff’s attorney, Brent Wisner, told the California jurors “the world is watching” and you are “part of history”.
The allegations stem from 46-year old former groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2014 after spending two seasons spraying Monsanto’s Ranger Pro and Roundup products in school yards in Benicio, California. His case, originally filed in California Superior Court in 2016, alleges that while he used personal protective equipment, there were instances in which he would still become drenched in the product.
In opening statements, plaintiff’s attorney explained to the jury that Monsanto knew about health risks associated with Roundup since 1998, when studies were published showing a correlation between exposure to glysophate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, instead of putting warning labels on the product, Monsanto tried to “bully scientists and fight research”, plaintiff alleges.
Counsel for Monsanto stressed in opening statements that it is plaintiff’s burden to link non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to Mr. Johnson’s alleged exposure to glysophate, and there is no science to support the connection. Additionally, Monsanto argued that the timeline of Mr. Johnson’s claims did not make sense and “by the time his symptoms started to appear, it [the cancer] had been growing in his body for years”.
The battle regarding expert opinion and science over glysophate as a cancer-causing agent goes back to October 2017, when Monsanto filed a Motion for Summary Judgment to support their request to a California federal judge to toss multidistrict litigation alleging that Roundup was linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The basis for the argument was that plaintiff’s experts should be deemed inadmissible for failing to meet the U.S. Supreme Court’s Daubert standard. A week-long hearing was held last March regarding Monsanto’s motion, and U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria appeared to agree with Monsanto that plaintiff’s experts used results-driven methods to produce the conclusion linking Roundup to cancer. “I think that the plaintiff’s experts opinions are shaky” he said. Despite these initial signs that Monsanto’s motion might be allowed, in a ruling issued last Tuesday, the Motion was denied. The Court held that plaintiff’s expert’s opinions “while shaky, are admissible.” The judge “emphasize[d] that a trial judge should not exclude expert testimony merely because he thinks it’s shaky or because he thinks the jury will have cause to question the experts credibility.”
At the heart of this case is whether glyosphate is capable of causing cancer. In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said the key ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” “For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” the report states. “The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals.” However, Monsanto will point to the fact that over 800 scientific studies have concluded just the opposite. In addition, the EPA, the National Institute of Health, and other agencies around the world have reached the opposite conclusion of IARC.
CMBG3 Law anticipates that Plaintiff will continue to argue the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification of glyphosate in 2015 as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, while Monsanto will rely heavily on their own experts and hundreds of scientific studies suggesting the opposite. Monsanto attorney stated on Thursday “there’s a difference between and IARC classification and plaintiff’s burden of proof”. Judge Bolanas suggested too that it may be necessary to give the jury instruction explaining the difference between the standard of proof for plaintiff’s lymphoma and the findings by IARC and other regulatory agencies.
Regardless of the outcome of this trial, the case promises to be a bellwether case, as there are hundreds of other cases making the same allegations in various state and federal courts. The evidence that is brought out at trial and the jury verdict will factor heavily into how quickly the glysophate litigation takes off nationally.
CMBG3 Law LLC has represented clients in products liability matters, especially with respect to allegedly toxic chemicals. We provide the most current legal advice to our clients by staying on top of developments in science, medicine, and regulations regarding a wide variety of substances and products used by consumers every day. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Matt Lite (email him or 617-279-8207) or John Gardella (email him or 617-279-8225).