Judge Cancels Roundup Trials, Brings in ‘Neutral Third Party’ for Resolution

Thousands of cancer patients are suing Monsanto alleging their exposure to the company’s Roundup herbicide caused their illnesses. This is all taking spotlight in court, where recently U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria officially ordered Bayer AG and lawyers (who represent the mass of cancer patients) into mediation to seek a settlement.

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in June 2018, lost the first of 2 trials in unanimous jury verdicts that led to large damage awards against the company.

In his order, Chhabria wrote:

“The parties should propose a mediator in their case management statement; if they cannot agree, the Court will appoint someone.”

Bayer said it would comply with the order but still planned to defend the safety of Roundup and other glyphosate-containing herbicides in court.

A third trial had been slated to begin May 20. [2]

Chhabria said he would rather see the cases organized in the multidistrict litigation before him, which would determine which lawsuits should be dismissed, which should be sent to state courts, and which cases should be sent back to where they were originally filed for trials in federal court.

Analysts predict the settlement could top $5 billion. The confidential nature of mediation would mean that Bayer manages to resolve the litigation without multimillion-dollar damning headlines the first 2 trials produced.

Thomas G. Rohback, a New York trial attorney, said:

“The confidentiality – which is also quite common – could help Bayer pay a settlement amount without making that public. Of course, the key is whether the parties can reach an agreement.”

Chhabria scheduled a meeting for May 22 to discuss the mediation efforts and possibly set a new date for the canceled trial.

Sources:

[1] U.S. Right to Know

[2] The Detroit News

Bayer Loses Billions as 2nd Jury Determines RoundUp Weed Killer Causes Cancer

(Brian Shilhavy) Bayer AG has suffered its second major legal defeat after purchasing Monsanto Co. and inheriting its controversial herbicide, RoundUp, the world’s most popular weedkiller. The active ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate, has been linked to cancer and other health problems, while Bayer and Monsanto, along with the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have denied any links.

The post Bayer Loses Billions as 2nd Jury Determines RoundUp Weed Killer Causes Cancer appeared on Stillness in the Storm.

Jury Finds Roundup Weedkiller Caused Man’s Cancer

Bayer was dealt a huge blow on March 19 when a San Francisco federal jury unanimously agreed that Roundup weed-killer caused a man’s cancer. [1]

It is the second time a jury decided in favor of a plaintiff who had alleged that the main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

It took the jury 5 days of deliberation to reach the conclusion that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Edwin Hardeman, 70, who hails from Sonoma County, California. The plaintiff was diagnosed with the disease in 2015. [1] [2]

In August, another San Francisco jury determined that Roundup caused cancer in DeWayne Johnson, a school groundskeeper who had been exposed to high levels of Roundup on the job. In that case, the jury awarded Johnson $289 million. However, that amount was later reduced to $78 million. [1]

Johnson’s condition has been described as “terminal,” however, Hardeman’s cancer is in remission. He testified that he sprayed Roundup for nearly 3 decades to kill poison oak on his 56-acre tract in Forestville, often getting the weedkiller on his hands or inhaling it. [2]

Lawyers for Hardeman and other plaintiffs accuse Monsanto of hiding evidence of the carcinogenic nature of glyphosate from its users and of “ghost-writing” some of the purported favorable study results.

Read: Judge OK’s Controversial Evidence in Roundup-Herbicide Trials

Hardeman’s lawyers, Aimee Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore, said in a statement after the verdict:

“Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup.

Instead, it is clear from Monsanto’s actions that it does not particularly care whether its product is, in fact, giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.”

Monsanto, the maker of Roundup at the time both Hardeman and Johnson were exposed, was acquired by Bayer in June 2018. [1]

Hardeman’s case is 1 of 3 “bellwether” trials scheduled before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria. The case could set a precedent that helps lay out the framework for the sizes of settlements in future cases. [2]

Bayer said in a statement March 19 that it is disappointed with the verdict, “but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer.”

The statement goes on to say:

“We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer.”

The jury’s next step will be to decide how much Hardeman should be awarded in liability and damages.

About 10,000 Roundup lawsuits are awaiting trial, including more than 750 that have been consolidated in San Francisco’s federal court. [1][2]

Sources:

[1] NPR

[2] San Francisco Chronicle

Judge OK’s Controversial Evidence in Roundup-Herbicide Trials

There are numerous pending lawsuits revolving around Bayer AG and an herbicide product known as Roundup – with claims that the herbicide is causing cancer. Well, Bayer AG suffered a blow January 28 when a federal judge tentatively agreed to allow controversial evidence the company had hoped to exclude from upcoming trials.

At a hearing in San Francisco federal court, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said his decision was “probably most disappointing for Monsanto.” (In 2016, Bayer and Monsanto merged for a whopping $66 billion.)

Bayer insists that glyphosate, the chemical in Roundup that is alleged to cause cancer, is safe and that decades of independent studies back that claim.

Read: Monsanto “Deliberately Covered up Data” Proving Glyphosate is Cancerous for 4 Decades

Chhabria ruled that plaintiffs could include some of Monsanto’s allegedly ghost-written studies and attempts to influence the findings of scientists and regulators during the first phase of upcoming trials. The judge said that documents which showed the company taking a position on the science or a study during the first phase were “super relevant.”

On January 3, Chhabria issued an order limiting evidence of corporate misconduct. The move lifted Bayer’s shares nearly 7% and made the company optimistic that Chhabria would take a harder line on similar damning evidence. At the time, Bayer called such evidence a “sideshow” intended to distract jurors from scientific evidence.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that evidence of corporate misconduct was integral to proving the company’s scientific claims are skewed in favor of Monsanto (now Bayer).

Read: EPA Official Accused of Helping Monsanto “Kill” Glyphosate-Cancer Link

Chhabria agreed, saying the line between scientific evidence and corporate misconduct was a murky one and questioned whether it would be fair for the jury not to hear about Monsanto’s alleged attempts to influence scientists.

The parties agreed to exclude other internal documents, including internal e-mails on Monsanto employees discussing lobbying efforts, from the initial trial phase. However, that evidence could come into play if glyphosate is found to have caused plaintiff Edwin Hardeman’s cancer and the trial proceeds to a second phase to determine Bayer’s liability.

The order applies to Hardeman’s case, which is set for trial on February 25, and 2 other upcoming cases. Of the more than 9,300 Roundup lawsuits pending nationwide, 620 of them are before Chhabria.

In August, a jury awarded former school groundskeeper DeWayne Johnson $289 million in a similar case, sending Bayer shares tumbling. That award was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal. Plaintiffs’ lawyers say corporate misconduct evidence was crucial to that decision.

Sources:

Reuters

Court in India Clears Path for Monsanto (Bayer) to Claim GM Cotton Patent

On January 8, 2019, following a protracted legal battle, India’s top court ruled that Monsanto can own patents on genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds. The decision overturns a Delhi High Court ruling which said the country’s laws barred plant varieties and seeds from being patented.

Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds were introduced to India in 2002. Today, more than 90% of the country’s cotton crop is genetically modified. The seeds are referred to as Bt cotton because they have been inserted with a pest-resistant toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis.

The court decision could encourage biotechnology to increase investment in India. In the past, DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta were concerned about losing patents on GM crops in that country.

Read: Monsanto has Been Overcharging and Swindling Indian Farmers for Far too Long

The Delhi High Court ruled in April 2018 that Monsanto could not claim patents on Bollgard and Bollgard II cotton seeds in India under the country’s Patents Act of 1970. The act dictates that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented, thereby allowing the court to reject Monsanto’s attempt to block its Indian licensee, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd., from selling the seeds. The ruling also meant that Monsanto could not sue Nuziveedu for unpaid royalties, as its patents had become invalidated under Indian law.

But a spokesman for Bayer, which bought out Monsanto in 2016, said that the Jan. 8 judgment “essentially means that the patent is in force.”

The Supreme Court said it will investigate Monsanto’s allegations that Nuziveedu infringed its intellectual property on Bt cotton seeds.

Frustrated with the ruling, Greenpeace India said:

One can’t patent life. Seed ownership by farmers has traditionally been an important agricultural practice, but profit-driven giant Monsanto is making our farmers disempowered and dependent!”

The ruling is a big win for Monsanto (now Bayer) and comes at a time when the company needs all the good news it can get. The aggrotech giant stood to lose revenue without a claim over exclusive rights in India, and the company is currently facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that its glyphosate-containing herbicide, RoundUp, causes cancer. [2]

Read: Jury Orders Monsanto to Pay $289 Million in World’s 1st Roundup Trial

Ashok Gulati, a professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi, said:

“Pirates cannot be innovators. If we are to respect intellectual property only then can we expect to access the best technologies in the world.”

Sources:

[1] EcoWatch

[2] Bloomberg