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Failure to Warn of the Dangers of Glyphosate: An Examination of Roundup Claims

In May 2019, a jury awarded Alva and Arnold Pilliod $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million in punitive damages for exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup. The couple used the herbicide for 30 years for residential landscaping.  The jury deliberated for two days before awarding damages. It was the third successful lawsuit in the state of California against the agricultural chemical giant, now owned by Bayer, the Swiss chemical company. The first successful lawsuit was the $78.5 million awarded to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson in 2014. In March 2019, a jury awarded Edwin Hardeman $80 million for decades of Roundup exposure on his small farm.

The success of these lawsuits is based mainly upon the discovery of damning documents that Monsanto willfully avoided finding out if Roundup was safe. Billions of pounds of the herbicide have been applied globally to eradicate weeds and increase crop yields.

The Driscoll Firm, P.C. is working with clients affected by Roundup to file claims against Monsanto/Bayer. The information here is intended to help keep readers informed about this important issue. If you think you have a Roundup-related case, please call us at 800-900-7704 for a free consultation to discuss your situation right away.

Taking Legal Action for Roundup Cancer Claims

There are currently thousands of lawsuits against the manufacturer and marketer of Roundup, in the United States and elsewhere. For decades, the Monsanto told its customers that Roundup was entirely safe for use. As a result, many customers failed to protect themselves from the chemical, wearing light clothing and no face masks when applying liberal amounts of it on their gardens, lawn, and crops.

But in 2015, a report was released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer named the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, as a probable carcinogen. That was when the flood began, with longtime users suing the company. While many forms of cancer have been referenced in the lawsuits, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a relatively rare cancer, is seen as likely caused by glyphosate. It is fatal in roughly one-third of cases.

At issue in the Pilliod lawsuit, as well as the Hardeman trial, was the failure of Monsanto to provide adequate warnings about possible harmful effects of Roundup. There were no labels on the product and no effort to warn users to take precautions when applying the chemical. Hardeman won his case in federal court, which opened up possible harmful consequences for the agricultural chemical company. Monsanto was sold to Bayer A.G. in 2018. The next major lawsuit will begin in August 2019 in Bayer’s hometown of St. Louis. The company’s stock price has fallen 38 percent year-over-year.

Examining the Company’s Actions

Communities around the world are scrutinizing the herbicide and the company that makes it, and many are banning glyphosate.

It was revealed in the Hardeman trial that Monsanto did not conduct epidemiology studies for several formulations of Roundup. One study has shown that all the chemicals combined in Roundup are more toxic to humans than glyphosate alone. Documents revealed that several of the surface acting agents, or surfactants, in the herbicide are much more harmful than glyphosate alone.

Monsanto expended time and resources trying to manage the public perceptions of the cancer-causing potential of Roundup. It funded ghostwritten studies and published articles that attempted to discredit independent scientists who produced research that found Roundup and other Monsanto herbicides were dangerous to humans. When the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry decided to evaluate glyphosate in 2015, Monsanto used their contacts at the Environmental Protection Agency to delay that evaluation. Those Monsanto allies at the EPA have repeatedly endorsed the chemical company’s view that glyphosate is safe for humans.

The importance of protecting the assertion that Roundup is not harmful to humans is at the core of Monsanto’s marketing model for Roundup. Their key marketing message is that Roundup can be applied liberally to crops, gardens, and playing fields because it will only kill weeds. Profitable crops and plants have been genetically modified to be glyphosate-resistant, so they survive, and the herbicide is not poisonous to humans or animals. Monsanto felt the alleged targetted effects of Roundup are an essential benefit of the product and central to its success in the market. However, internally, Monsanto had workers wear a full range of protective gear when working with the product. They failed, however, to adequately warn the public about their own precautions within the company and failed to protect the public by doing so.

There is increasing evidence that pesticide (insecticides and herbicides) exposure is a possible explanation for the increase in acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) among children. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported that Hispanic children, in particular, who had seen the most significant increase in ALL from 1992 to 2013, are at highest risk for pesticide exposure:

“Exposure to pesticides may disproportionately affect Hispanic children in the United States, due to higher proportions of families living near farming communities or working in the farming industry. The role of residential, parental occupational, or ambient pesticide exposure to various classes of pesticides (e.g., insecticides, herbicides) early in the child’s life (i.e., in utero, during early childhood) has been investigated in a series of case-control studies. Summary measures for meta-analyses report elevated relative risk estimates for residential and occupational exposure during pregnancy to pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides, with stronger effect, estimates generally observed for maternal occupational exposure.”

Monsanto’s appeal argues, among other things, that if the court refuses to reverse the judgment, there should be no punitive damage award at all, even if Johnson is awarded a small amount for compensatory damages.

Meanwhile, recent plaintiffs’ verdicts have Monsanto and their insurance company, Liberty Mutual insurance, scrambling to file appeals and get decisions in the Pilliod and Hardeman cases overturned. Monsanto and Liberty Mutual posted a $100 million bond with the federal court as it plans to appeal the Hardeman case.

The chemical company’s appeal argues that if the court refuses to reverse the judgment, there should be no punitive damage award at all. Plaintiff Johnson should only receive a small amount for compensatory damages.

The Johnson appeal is expedited basis due to Johnson’s declining health. Oral arguments will probably be scheduled for September or October. A final ruling will probably take at least 90 days to determine.

All of the stunning verdicts in Monsanto’s Roundup cases have come in California. But the forum moves to Missouri, in Monsanto’s longtime hometown of St. Louis. In 2017, 75 plaintiffs filed suits against the chemical company, and the first one goes to trial on August 19. Texas will likely soon become a battleground for Roundup lawsuits due to a large number of workers employed in agriculture in the state.

Sharlean Gordon, the plaintiff in the first trial, used Roundup continuously for 15 years. She was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2006. Cancer required two stem cell implants. The effects of the disease dramatically impacts her mobility. The judge has scheduled three weeks for the trial, and it will be followed in September by another Monsanto herbicide trial.

The recent high-dollar verdicts against Monsanto, and now Bayer, have shareholders concerned about the financial future of the company, which has lost nearly 40 percent off its stock price and is now at its lowest level in seven years. Many shareholders are questioning the wisdom of the 2018 Monsanto acquisition, just as the first lawsuits were heading to trial.

Federal district judge Vince Chhabria ordered the company to undertake mediation talks to possibly settle the increasing number of Roundup lawsuits around the country. There are currently over 13,000 plaintiffs in the US, all of whom have been diagnosed with cancer. The plaintiffs demand damages based upon Monsanto’s repeated use of deceptive tactics and marketing to deceive customers into thinking that glyphosate is harmless to humans. Bayer complied with the mediation order but does not appear to be ready to settle these cases en masse until they hear the courts’ judgments on their appeals.

Meanwhile, Roundup litigation has spread to Canada and Australia, where several lawsuits have been filed against Bayer/Monsanto.

Were You Exposed to Roundup? Contact The Driscoll Firm, P.C. for Help

Events in the Monsanto Roundup litigation are happening very rapidly now that there have been multiple plaintiff’s verdicts with significant damage figures attached. In many respects, this is just the beginning of legal trouble for Bayer, and other consequences seem quite possible.

The Driscoll Firm, P.C. fights for the rights of individuals, and not major corporations like Bayer. If you think your cancer diagnosis is related to Roundup exposure, it is essential to contact one of our experienced Roundup lawyers as soon as possible. Call today at 800-900-7704 so we can discuss how we can help you take action and get justice.