'Roundup Does Not Cause Cancer.' Another Jury Trial Opens Over Monsanto's Pesticide
By Amanda Bronstad
Law.com (April 26, 2023, 06:38 PM) -- The first trial over Monsanto’s Roundup kicked off this year in a state court in Missouri.
Monsanto won a Nov. 9 defense verdict in another Roundup trial in the same Clayton, Missouri, courtroom before St. Louis Circuit Judge Brian May. In her opening statement on Wednesday, Aimee Wagstaff said her client, Sharlean Gordon, was diagnosed in 2006 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after years of spraying Roundup in her yard in Illinois.
“Monsanto has admitted that they have never warned that any exposure to Roundup, no matter the amount, could ever cause cancer,” Wagstaff, a partner at the Wagstaff Law Firm in Denver, Colorado, told jurors, according to coverage of the trial by Courtroom View Network. “At the end of this trial, we’re going to ask you to hold Monsanto accountable.”
In 1992, Gordon started spraying Roundup. She continued until 2017, after she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Gordon, who underwent chemotherapy and radiation, is seeking an award of compensatory and punitive damages, though Wagstaff did not suggest a number to jurors.
“She is in fear and fright every single day of her life thinking the cancer will come back,” she said, according to the network’s coverage.
Monsanto attorney Kat Hacker, a Bartlit Beck partner in Denver, noted in her opening statement that Gordon’s doctors do not anticipate her cancer returning. She also disputed Roundup’s health risks.
“What we will see during this trial is that every single public health authority around the world to do a risk assessment and look at this question, they all agree: Roundup does not cause cancer,” she told jurors, according to the CVN coverage.
Hacker’s defense team includes Bartlit Beck partner Mark Ouweleen in Chicago and Christine Miller, a partner at Husch Blackwell in St. Louis.
‘This is not just bad luck’
Wagstaff is co-lead plaintiffs’ counsel in the Roundup multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of California and served on the trial team in the first bellwether trial, which ended in an $80 million verdict in 2019. Two other Roundup trials in California, one in San Francisco County Superior Court and the other in Alameda County Superior Court, ended with jury awards of $289 million and $2 billion, respectively.
Bayer has won six verdicts in a row. In addition to the most recent win, two other trials in Missouri last year ended in defense verdicts, one on Sept. 1 in Clayton involving three plaintiffs, and one on June 10 in Kansas City. Monsanto also won trials in Medford, Oregon, and Los Angeles.
Regarding the Gordon trial, Bayer said in a statement: “While we have great sympathy for the plaintiff in this case, the extensive body of scientific research on glyphosate-based herbicides over four decades, as well as the assessments of leading health regulators worldwide, support the conclusion that Roundup is not responsible for her illness.”
As Monsanto’s lawyers have argued in the past Roundup trials, Hacker told jurors that normal cell copying errors caused 95.6% of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases. Still, according to the network’s broadcast, only 4% are due to environmental factors.
“This is not just bad luck,” she said. “This is biology. This is the science of how our bodies work.”
Bayer also has taken its Roundup fight to appellate courts, the most recent before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where its petition seeks to reverse a federal preemption ruling in a Pennsylvania case. Bayer has argued that any warning label on Roundup would conflict with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conclusions that glyphosate, the pesticide’s primary ingredient, doesn’t cause cancer. It also would violate the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
On Dec. 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed to rehear Bayer’s federal preemption arguments in a separate Roundup case in Georgia. Last year, the Eleventh Circuit reversed a summary judgment ruling favorable to Bayer.
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Bayer’s petitions involving two Roundup verdicts in California.