Attorneys for hundreds of Roundup lawsuit plaintiffs have asked a federal judge to reject Monsanto’s proposal for two-phase bellwether trials.
According to a recent filing in the U.S. District Court, Northern District California, Monsanto’s lawyers have proposed a bifurcated trial for each bellwether case.
The first phase of each trial would focus on general causation, or whether glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup – can actually cause cancer. The trial would only move into a second phase if the jury finds in the affirmative.
At that point, jurors would be asked to decide on specific causation, or whether glyphosate was, in fact, the cause of the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In their December 13th Opposition Brief, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that bifurcated trials would undermine the value of the bellwether process.
“The purpose of a bellwether trial is to allow each side to test their theories and evidence against a real-world jury and, hopefully, learn important information about the strengths and weaknesses of the case to inform collective resolution,” the brief states. “Imposing a one-sided procedural hurdle—one that would be a de facto outlier for the 10,000 cases proceeding around the country—does not accomplish that goal. It renders any verdict in this MDL, no matter which side prevails, unhelpful trial on its favored defense before reaching any other issue—is unheard of in the modern MDL bellwether process.”
Furthermore, the brief asserts that the law does not permit such a trial, as it would create structural and substantive prejudice against plaintiffs.
Roundup is the most popular weed killer in the world.
However, in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) designated glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.” The agency did so after an independent review suggested glyphosate exposure was associated with an increased risk of cancer, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Since then, more than 9,000 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have been filed in courts throughout the United States.
Approximately 650 of these claims are undergoing centralized pretrial proceedings in the Northern District of California. Verdicts in the litigation’s bellwether trials could provide insight into how other juries might decide similar claims.
The country’s first trial involving Monsanto Roundup and cancer concluded in August, when a jury San Francisco Superior Court awarded $289 million to a former groundskeeper with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, the trial judge later knocked the judgement down to $78 million to comply with California’s constitutional limit on punitive damages.
Bayer – which recently acquired Monsanto – is appealing the verdict.