The federal court overseeing hundreds of cancer lawsuits involving Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer will convene its first bellwether trial in February 2019.
More than 560 Roundup lawsuits are currently pending in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, where all such federal claims have ben centralized before a single judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings. The multidistrict litigation’s bellwether trials will involve cases representative of those pending in the multidistrict litigation and could provide some insight into how other juries will decide similar lawsuits.
According to a revised order issued on October 3rd, opening arguments the first Monsanto Roundup lawsuit trial will begin on February 25th. Jury selection is scheduled to start on February 20th.
Monsanto’s Roundup is the world’s most popular herbicide, and is widely used around the world in agricultural, commercial, and residential settings.
In March 2015, however, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate – the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup – a probable human carcinogen, specifically in regard to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Since then, thousands of people throughout the United States have filed Monsanto Roundup lawsuits accusing the company of concealing evidence of glyphosate’s purported association with cancer.
The first such case went to trial over the summer in San Francisco Superior Court. In August, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Dwayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former school district groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014.
According to his complaint, Mr. Johnson was exposed to Roundup and other Monsanto glyphosate weed killers 20-30 times per year over the course of his career. During trial, his attorneys presented internal company emails and other evidence that suggested Monsanto had unduly influenced research that disputed the IARC cancer findings on glyphosate.
The jury ultimately awarded Mr. Johnson and his family $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Among other things, jurors found that Monsanto was negligent in failing to warn Mr. Johnson’s employer that glyphosate exposure had been linked to an increased risk of cancer. The $250 million in punitive damages awarded to Mr. Johnson reflected the jury’s belief that Monsanto had acted with malice or oppression in its handling of glyphosate.
Bayer, which recently completed its acquisition of Monsanto, is appealing the verdict.
Earlier this week, the trial judge indicated that she was considering tossing the jury’s punitive damage award and ordering a new trial on that issue. The judge also suggested that she was open to reducing compensatory damages.
Lawyers for both sides have been directed to submit written arguments by Friday, after which the judge will issue her final ruling.