Four plaintiffs who blame Monsanto Roundup for causing their cancer are heading to trial today in St. Louis, Missouri.
St. Louis was the site of Monsanto’s headquarters before the U.S.-based agribusiness was acquired by Germany’s Bayer AG in June 2018. As a result of the acquisition, Bayer inherited thousands of lawsuits that allege Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides sold by Monsanto caused users to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Recent reports indicated the litigation has grown to include more than 75,000 cases nationwide, with tens of thousands of additional Monsanto Roundup lawsuits waiting to be filed.
The trial starting today in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court is the first to involve multiple plaintiffs and the first to be convened in Monsanto’s former hometown. Last Wednesday, the judge presiding over the trial denied Bayer’s bid for summary judgment. She also ruled that the proceeding could be recorded and broadcast to the public, rejecting defense assertions that the resulting publicity could endanger witnesses and former Monsanto executives.
The Missouri trial is moving forward even as discussions aimed at settling the massive and costly litigation continue under the auspices of Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent attorney who guided negotiations for the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund and other high-profile litigations.
While some Monsanto Roundup plaintiffs have agreed to postpone upcoming trials to allow the parties to focus on settlement discussions, several other cases are scheduled to go before juries in California in the coming weeks.
Earlier this month, Feinberg told Bloomberg News that he was confident the litigation could be resolved.
“There’s a lot of incentive on both sides to try to come up with certain types of settlements,” Adam Zimmerman, of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, recently told Law.com “I don’t think a few more cases set for trial necessarily adds pressure, but what it does do is creates an environment to have productive conversations to resolve the cases in chunks, or in a larger way.”
Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School, noted that neither Missouri or California are particularly favorable venues for Bayer.
“St. Louis is not a very favorable venue for them, given what’s happened in talc and other litigation that’s gone on there,” he said. “My guess is they want to try to avoid that. And California hasn’t been very favorable, either. So I think those are drivers, and they’re important to Bayer. They don’t want to keep piling up these huge multimillion-dollar verdicts.”
Three Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have already gone to trial in California, where Bayer has yet to win a single case. Those juries have awarded plaintiffs combined damages totaling more than $2 billion.