(Jan. 4, 2019) A Monsanto Christmas wish was granted this week by a judge in the Roundup cancer litigation. California Judge Vince Chhabria ruled for Monsanto in its lawyers’ requests that the jury in the next Roundup cancer trial not hear evidence of how Monsanto worked to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion.
Unlike the first trial – in which a jury awarded a $289 million verdict that stated Monsanto’s Roundup caused a California groundskeeper’s cancer – the judge ruled to split the second trial into two parts. That decision could have far-reaching consequences for the entire Roundup litigation.
New Trial Arrangement favors Monsanto
In the new two-part trial arrangement, the plaintiff’s attorneys will first have to convince the jury that Roundup caused the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They will need to do so without any reference to Monsanto’s now well-documented attempts to influence the EPA, other regulators, and the public at large. Plaintiff’s attorneys will also not be able to show Monsanto’s secret funding of ostensibly “scientific” research projects that established outcomes which virtually always favored the company that funded them.
If – and only if – the plaintiff’s attorneys are able to convince the jury that Roundup caused the plaintiff’s lymphoma, will they then be able to reveal the full scope of Monsanto’s efforts to keep the public from discovering that Roundup was not as safe as the company advertised.
If Roundup Were Safe
If Roundup were as safe as advertised, why would Monsanto be so concerned with manipulating public opinion? Why would it spend countless hours and monies to attack or “neutralize” honest researchers like Giles Seralini? If Roundup were safe, why would Monsanto feel the need to hire academic stooges like Berkeley’s Henry I. Miller to put his name on propaganda penned by Monsanto executives? If Roundup were safe, why would Monsanto need to cajole and massage EPA employees like Jess Rowland to get them to do the company’s bidding and squelch honest inquiry into Roundup safety?
Scope of Ruling
Judge Chhabria’s Jan. 3 order applies to Edwin Hardeman’s case, which is scheduled for trial on Feb. 25. The ruling also applies to two other bellwether trials which will help determine the range of damages and define settlement options for the rest of the 620 Roundup cases before Chhabria.
Mr. Hardeman’s lawyers contend that the exluded evidence, including internal Monsanto documents, show the company’s misconduct. They believe that evidence was critical to an August 2018 California state court jury’s $289 million award in a similar case, though that verdict was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal.
Under Judge Chhabria’s order, evidence of Monsanto’s alleged misconduct would be allowed only if glyphosate were found by the jury to have caused Mr. Hardeman’s cancer. If that happens, the trial can proceed to a second phase to determine Monsanto’s (Bayer’s) liability.
Monsanto and Bayer face more than 9,300 U.S. lawsuits over Roundup’s safety in U.S. state and federal courts.
A Bayer statement welcomed the judge’s decision: “The court’s decision to keep the focus of the trial on the extensive science relevant to human health is encouraging,” the company said.
The attorney for Mr. Hardeman said that even without the evidence of Monsanto’s influence peddling, she feels confident the jury will be able to understand that Roundup caused her client’s lymphoma.