Plaintiffs in thousands of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits were handed a win yesterday, when a federal judge denied Bayer’s bid to exclude vital evidence from upcoming bellwether trials.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California said plaintiffs could introduce the evidence during the trials’ first phase. According to Reuters, the documents at issue highlight Monsanto’s alleged efforts to ghostwrite studies and manipulate other research investigating the potential link between glyphosate exposure and cancer.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys assert that evidence of Monsanto’s alleged scientific misconduct is vital to proving their claims. In seeking to exclude the material, however, Bayer maintained the internal company documents were nothing more than a “sideshow” that would only distract jurors from valid scientific evidence.
During Monday’s hearing, Judge Chhabria acknowledged that his decision was “probably most disappointing for Monsanto.” However, he concluded that any documents showing the company had taken a position on glyphosate science or research were “super relevant.”
More than 600 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits are pending in the multidistrict litigation now underway in the Northern District of California. Verdicts in upcoming bellwether trials could provide insight into how other juries might decide similar claims.
Judge Chhabria’s order applies to the first trial set to begin on February 25st, as well as two future trials.
Bayer motioned to split federal Roundup trials into two phases last year. The first phase will focus on causation, or whether glyphosate caused the plaintiffs’ cancer. The second will focus on Bayer’s liability, but will only go forward if a jury rules for the plaintiff in the first phase.
In his January 3rd Order to bifurcate the trials, Judge Chhabria suggested evidence of Monsanto’s alleged scientific misconduct could prejudice juries against Bayer. As a result, many observers expected him to go along with the company’s motion to exclude the evidence.
Bayer is trying a similar tactic with Monsanto Roundup lawsuits pending in San Francisco Superior Court, where it recently filed a motion to bifurcate a case set to go to trial in March.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed killer, was designated a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015. Monsanto completely rejects these findings, however, and has aggressively campaigned to discredit the IARC review.
Despite those efforts, more than 9,000 plaintiffs throughout the United States have filed Monsanto Roundup lawsuits for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers allegedly caused by glyphosate.
The nation’s first Roundup lawsuit trial concluded last August, when a jury in San Francisco Superior Court awarded $289 million to a former groundskeeper with terminal cancer. However, the judge overseeing that case later reduced the judgment to $78 million, after finding that the jury’s punitive damage award exceeded California’s limits.