Punitives In Play In First Glysophate Trial In California, Judge Rules

Aug 7, 2018 | Toxic Tort

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. CMBG3’s Matt Lite has brought you the latest from this groundbreaking trial.  

In a decision that surprised many following the trial, on Monday California Superior Court Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos ruled that she will allow she will allow the punitive damages question to go to the jury despite her previously calling it a “close call.”  The decision was further surprising to many given that the case was nearly dismissed at the summary judgment stage on the grounds that the expert evidence in the case did not appear to meet the U.S. Supreme Court’s Daubert standard for admissibility of expert testimony.  

Monsanto attorney, James Hilmert, argued that there was insufficient evidence to warrant punitive damages and Monsanto’s actions never rose to the level of malice. He also added that the only testimony that could be used to argue punitive damages were two emails that should be stricken from the record as irrelevant and inflamatory.

Nevertheless, Judge Bolanos supported her decision by explaining that the case law requires her to present the question of punitives to the jury, although she did impose restrictions on the scope of plaintiff’s closing statements. First, she prohibited Johnson’s counsel from making any reference to fraud. Second, Johnson’s attorneys will not be permitted to mention a comment made by a Monsanto Vice President to an employee during safety training, in which the V.P. allegedly stated that “Monsanto is about making money.” Out of context, such a statement would clearly cast a negative impression on the jury. Finally, Judge Bolanos prohibited plaintiff’s counsel from mentioning an email exchange between a Monsanto employee and a chief marketer for Roundup’s California distributor. In the email chain, the marketer complained that California school districts were banning the use of Roundup on schoolgrounds, to which the employee replied, “we are being overrun by liberals and morons, sort of like a zombie movie”.

Closing arguments will commence today, August 7. 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 glyphosate 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).




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