Over the past several months, several cases against Monsanto and its herbicide Roundup have been decided in favor of the plaintiffs. The lawsuits generally center on the dangers caused by the chemical glyphosate, which is one of the chemicals used in Roundup products. The International Agency for Research on Cancer at the World Health Organization ruled glyphosate a group 2A chemical in 2015, which means that it is probably carcinogenic to humans. The EPA in 2017 released a draft risk assessment for glyphosate, which stated that it is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
Last year, a jury in the Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, found that an ordinary consumer could form reasonable minimum safety expectations for Roundup Pro and Ranger Pro; that the products failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected when used or misused in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner; that the design of the products was a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff, Mr. Johnson; that the products had potential risks that were known or knowable in light of the scientific knowledge that was generally accepted in the scientific community at the time of the products’ distribution, manufacture, or sale; that the potential risks of the products presented a substantial danger to persons using or misusing the products in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner; that ordinary consumers would not have recognized the potential risks; that Monsanto failed to adequately warn about the potential risks; that the failure to warn was a substantial factor in causing the harm to Mr. Johnson; that Monsanto knew or reasonably should have known that the products were dangerous or likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner; that Monsanto should know or should have reasonably known that users would not realize the danger; that Monsanto failed to adequately warn of the danger or instruct on the safe use of the products; that a reasonable manufacturer, distributor, or seller under the same or similar circumstances would have warned of the danger or instructed on the safe use of the products; and that Monsanto’s failure to warn was a substantial factor in causing the harm to Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson filed the complaint alleging that his exposure to Roundup products through his work for a school district and through living on a commercial sod farm contributed to his cancer. The jury found that Mr. Johnson’s past economic loss amounted to $819,882.32, future economic loss amounted to $1,433,327.00, past non-economic loss amounted to $4,000,000.00, and future non-economic loss amounted to $33,000,000.00. The jury also found by clear and convincing evidence that Monsanto acted with malice or oppression in the conduct which they found liability in favor of Mr. Johnson; and that the conduct constituting malice or oppression was committed, ratified, or authorized by one or more officers, directors, or managing agents of Monsanto acting on behalf of the company. In light of this malice finding, the jury awarded Mr. Johnson $250,000,000.00 in punitive damages.
The latest blow for Monsanto came in a test case as part of a multi-district litigation (MDL) against Monsanto in the federal court in San Francisco. Over 750 cases have been collected from throughout the federal court system alleging similar claims against Monsanto and Roundup. Mr. Hardeman’s case was the first of three test trial cases that would be used to help both plaintiffs and defendants determine damages and possible settlement parameters. The judge in the MDL action, Judge Vince Chhabria, made the decision to bifurcate the trial process. The first phase of the trial assesses causation only; leaving the second phase to assess remaining liability issues and damages. Last week, the jury in Hardeman’s case found that Hardeman proved by a preponderance of the evidence that his exposure to Roundup was a substantial factor in causing his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury began the second phase of the trial on March 20.
Some governments in the United States are moving to ban the use of glyphosate by officials. The City of Miami, Florida banned the spraying of glyphosate by contractors and employees. Los Angeles County ordered a moratorium on the use of glyphosate on county property until health and environmental experts can determine whether it is safe to use.