August 9, 2019 – New York, New York – – The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has received an Elite Trial Lawyers award for the second consecutive year. In a ceremony held in New York City, the firm received recognition in the Mass Torts category for its landmark legal victories in two Roundup cancer cases against the Monsanto Company.
Every year, the National Law Journal and American Lawyer Media honor law firms and lawyers handling cutting-edge work on behalf of plaintiffs in practice areas ranging from mass torts (a civil action involving hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs with the same type of injury against one or more defendants) to securities litigation. Editors and reporters reviewed more than 300 submissions to select the finalists for the 2019 Elite Trial Lawyer Awards.
Last year, Baum Hedlund won the award in the Pharmaceutical Litigation category based on its work in a high-profile case against drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.
Roundup Lawyers Receive Award for Work in Johnson v. Monsanto Co.
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman served as co-lead trial counsel in the first Monsanto Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Johnson v. Monsanto Co. resulted in a unanimous $289.25 million jury verdict against Monsanto, the second-largest jury verdict in the state of California for 2018.
Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson alleged exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides caused him to develop terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Mr. Johnson’s case was the first of thousands of lawsuits filed in state and federal courts making similar allegations against Monsanto to go before a jury.
Mr. Johnson was diagnosed with mycosis fungoides (non-Hodgkin lymphoma with large cell transformation) in August of 2014. He filed a lawsuit against Monsanto in 2016 alleging that exposure to Monsanto herbicides caused him to develop NHL.
On June 18, 2018, Mr. Johnson’s case was assigned to Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos in the Superior Court of San Francisco, California. R. Brent Wisner of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman served as co-lead counsel, delivering opening and closing statements. Co-lead counsel David Dickens from The Miller Firm conducted the pre-trial selection of the jury and presented case-specific experts and witnesses, including the plaintiff, Lee Johnson, and his family.
After five weeks of trial, the jury returned a $289.25 million verdict ($39.25 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages) for Mr. Johnson, the second-highest jury verdict in the state of California and the third-highest in the nation.
The jury unanimously found that Monsanto’s herbicides caused Mr. Johnson to develop NHL, and that Monsanto failed to warn of this severe health hazard. Importantly, the jury also found that Monsanto acted with malice, oppression, or fraud and should be punished for its conduct.
Although hampered by multiple rulings to exclude inculpatory documents because they were too prejudicial, the Johnson trial team ultimately showed the jury many secret internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that Roundup could cause cancer.
In October of 2018, Judge Bolanos reduced the amount of punitive damages to $39.25 million, bringing the total damages amount to $78.5 million. Mr. Johnson decided to accept the punitive damages reduction suggested by Judge Bolanos to hopefully achieve a resolution in his lifetime. Notwithstanding, Monsanto appealed. The case is currently in the California State Court of Appeals.
Baum Hedlund Honored for Work on Hardeman v. Monsanto Co.
In addition to the firm’s work on Johnson v. Monsanto Co., Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman attorneys also assisted the trial team in the case of Hardeman v. Monsanto Co., which resulted in a unanimous $80 million jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
Hardeman v. Monsanto Co. was the second case to go to trial but the first federal Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria (Johnson v. Monsanto Co. was a state court case). The trial was a bellwether case for plaintiffs with lawsuits consolidated and pending before Judge Chhabria, all alleging that exposure to Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, cause NHL.
Mr. Hardeman started using Roundup products to control poison oak, overgrowth, and weeds on his property in the 1980s and continued substantial spray activity through 2012. In February of 2015, he was diagnosed with B-cell NHL roughly a month before the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” He filed suit against Monsanto in February of 2016 alleging his cancer was caused by exposure to Roundup.
In January of 2019, Judge Chhabria decided to grant Monsanto’s request to bifurcate the trial in Hardeman v. Monsanto Co. The first phase addressed evidence relevant to causation, specifically, whether or not Roundup significantly contributed to Mr. Hardeman’s development of NHL. The second phase focused on Monsanto’s knowledge, conduct, and damages (both compensatory and punitive).
After roughly a month of trial proceedings, the six-person jury unanimously found that exposure to Roundup significantly contributed to Mr. Hardeman’s cancer. The jury awarded Mr. Hardeman $80 million: $200,967 in economic damages, $5 million in future and past noneconomic damages, and $75 million in punitive damages.
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman attorney, R. Brent Wisner, who served as co-lead trial counsel in Johnson v. Monsanto Co., assisted the Hardeman trial team. He presented one of the critical fact witnesses (Dr. Christopher Portier), and he cross-examined many of the corporate witnesses in Hardeman v. Monsanto Co.
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman managing partner, Michael Baum, and a team working under him assisted as members of the MDL (multi-district litigation) Executive Committee by presenting and preparing experts, corporate testimony, and documents for Hardeman v. Monsanto Co. Attorney Pedram Esfandiary also served on the Hardeman trial team.
Aimee Wagstaff of Andrus Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore of Moore Law Group were co-lead trial counsel for Mr. Hardeman.
Magnified by Verdicts in Johnson and Hardeman, the Monsanto Papers Continue to Capture Worldwide Attention
The groundbreaking jury verdicts in these cases sent a clear message to Monsanto (now Bayer) and other corporations: failure to warn the public of health dangers associated with consumer products comes with serious consequences.
Prior to, during, and after these trials, Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman declassified and published, per the Roundup protective orders, hundreds of internal Monsanto documents (aka the “Monsanto Papers”).
The Monsanto Papers show that Monsanto purposefully ghostwrote articles regulators had been relying upon for years, Monsanto orchestrated attacks against the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and its members for concluding glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, and Monsanto hid its own consultant’s conclusions that Roundup causes DNA damage. The documents also revealed that Monsanto hid data showing Roundup penetrated skin at greater rates than reported to regulators, and that Monsanto influenced EPA officials to arrive at pro-Roundup conclusions.
The Monsanto Papers, magnified by the Johnson verdict, changed the approval of Roundup use in Europe and led to legislative investigations worldwide. Many US cities and communities have banned Roundup use in public areas based on the verdict and the declassified internal documents.
Baum Hedlund posted the Monsanto Papers, the trial transcripts and the expert reports that have been the subject of dozens of investigative journalist articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, the Guardian, Forbes, and Bloomberg News, among many other media outlets.
About Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman is recognized as a preeminent plaintiff firm that handles toxic torts, commercial transportation litigation, pharmaceutical drug and medical device product liability, class actions, and whistleblower lawsuits. For several decades, our attorneys have represented thousands of victims in airline, general aviation, bus, train, and trucking accidents, as well as those injured by defective pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other consumer products. The firm has recovered more than $4 billion on behalf of clients across all areas of practice.