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Roundup Lawsuits: What You Need to Know in 2019

Four years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer labeled glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as a carcinogen. Immediately, Monsanto denied the claim and pointed to several studies. Still, the company’s damage control didn’t stop the thousands of lawsuit that followed the IARC news. It is 2019, and although Monsanto is now owned by Bayer, the company is still struggling to get in front of the image that Roundup—the most popular herbicide in the world—is linked to cancer. 

Bayer-Monsanto is currently battling thousands of lawsuits alleging that its popular herbicide Roundup is linked to cancer. More than 13,000 plaintiffs currently have cases pending against agrochemical company. Each case alleges that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, led to the development of cancer.

The evidence against Monsanto’s popular herbicide, Roundup, is building. This year alone, several studies have shown that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is carcinogenic. In fact, a study out of the University of Washington said the exposure to glyphosate increases the risk of some cancers by more than  40 percent .

The research coming out about the carcinogenesis of glyphosate is a blow to the long-held position of the Environmental Protection Agency and Monsanto that the synthetic chemical compound does not cause cancer in humans.

ATSDR Report Released April 2019

Further aiding plaintiff’s cases against Monsanto is the damning study released by the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in April 2019. The ATSDR is a department of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that announced plans to evaluate glyphosate’s health effects on human in February 2015 and publish its results in October of that same year. However, there is  evidence that the EPA and Monsanto conspired to kill the study and its release.

More than four years after the CDC announced it plans, it was only at  the urging of Congress that the long-awaited study was released in April 2019. The study raised several alarming flags about both the chemical’s carcinogenesis and non-cancerous effects.

The release of the CDC’s Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s findings was a blow to Monsanto’s court defense that its popular herbicide is non-toxic.

Why are there so many lawsuits against Monsanto?

In 2015, the World Health Organizations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorized glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in human”. Its decision to do so was based on “convincing evidence” that glyphosate led to tumors and cancer in laboratory animals. Particularly, the IARC found that exposure to glyphosate led to

  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • B-cell lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma

Those most at risk for developing cancer are farm workers and others who use or are in proximity to the substance as part of their jobs. For example, The Carlson Law Firm is currently representing clients who have been exposed through farm work, landscaping garden centers, nurseries, and rental property owners.

2019 Roundup Trials Timeline

Last year, jurors gave $289 million to DeWayne Johnson, a former landscaper diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While a judge later reduced the verdict, Johnson’s injuries were significant enough for an award worth almost $80 million. With that in mind, 2019 hasn’t faired any better for Bayer-Monsanto’s Roundup.

January 2019 – Bifurcation

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria bifurcated the first bellwether trials in the multidistrict litigation. This was a win for Bayer-Monsanto whose attorneys asked that the trials be split into two. The first phase of the trials would focus on whether or not Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, caused the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If the jury found this to be the case, then it should award compensatory damages. The second phase, if needed, would address Monsanto’s liability and punitive damages.

Monsanto cited the $289-million ruling in the Johnson case as its reasoning. In fact, the agrochemical company argued that conflicting regulatory findings confused the jury. 

However, critics of the move say that Monsanto asked to split the case into phases in order to quell key information from the plaintiff’s attorneys. A major theme in the attorneys’ arguments is that Monsanto has worked for decades to influence scientific studies that backed the safety of glyphosate—including collusion with the EPA.

Chabria wrote in his decision:

“Although this type of bifurcation is unusual and should be done with caution—both generally and in the context of MDL bellwether trials—it is warranted here. A significant portion of the plaintiffs’ case involves attacks on Monsanto for attempting to influence regulatory agencies and manipulate public opinion regarding glyphosate. These issues are relevant to punitive damages and some liability questions. But when it comes to whether glyphosate caused a plaintiff’s NHL, these issues are mostly a distraction, and a significant one at that.”

March 2019 – Phase One Ruling

Phase one of the bifurcated trials came to a close in mid-March. The second jury dealt Bayer-Monsanto a major blow. The jury concluded that the weedkiller’s active ingredient was a “substantial factor” in causing Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hardeman used Roundup for 26 years to control weeds and poison oak on his property for 26 years. Doctors diagnosed him with NHL in 2015.

Phase Two Ruling

The second phase began the day after the jury finding that Roundup caused Hardeman’s cancer. But less than two weeks after the trial began, the jury ordered Monsanto to pay more than $80 million in damages to Hardeman. The jury awarded Hardeman for the following:

  • $75 million in punitive damages
  • $5 million for past and future suffering
  • $200,000 for medical bills

The company deliberately failed to warn consumers about the risks. This is why punitive damage awards have been so significant. In addition, the evidence presented shows that Bayer engaged in a decades-long cover-up, putting its profits over people.

What do these trials mean?

Two different juries found the science backing claims that glyphosate is a carcinogen credible. Further, two different juries found that Monsanto worked to conceal the fact that it knew about glyphosate’s probability of being a carcinogen. And two different juries awarded significant punitive damages.

The company’s failure to warn consumers about the risks of using Roundup has put millions of people in danger. Currently, Bayer-Monsanto is facing U.S. lawsuits from more than 13,000 people over cancer claims.

Despite finding from juries and the CDC report, the Environmental Protection Agency  reaffirmed its stance at the end of April that the popular weed killer is safe for people. However, the agency notes potential risks to mammals and birds that feed on leaves treated with glyphosate. It has plans to announce ways to reduce drift.


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