The judge overseeing the federal Monsanto Roundup multidistrict litigation (MDL) in U.S. District Court for the District of California ruled today that experts for the plaintiffs can present their opinions at trial and denied Monsanto’s motion for summary judgment.
In his ruling, Judge Chhabria denied Monsanto’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the plaintiffs presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that glyphosate can cause cancer. Now, each individual plaintiff will have the opportunity to prove in court that exposure to Roundup caused them to develop NHL.
“We are pleased that the Court denied summary judgment and we look forward to taking the next step—getting our clients their day in Court,” said Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman attorney R. Brent Wisner. “Many of our clients are actively suffering from cancer so we are going to aggressively pursue their claims in the MDL and in state court.”
Judge Vince Chhabria’s ruling allows more than 450+ lawsuits against Monsanto Co. to proceed in federal court. The agrochemical giant is currently facing more than 5,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts over Roundup.
“…the plaintiffs have presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that glyphosate can cause NHL at human-relevant doses. Monsanto’s motion for summary judgment is denied.” – U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria’s July 10, 2018 Order
Cancer victims and their families across the country allege Monsanto has long known about the link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), but rather than informing the public, Monsanto continued to market its billion-dollar herbicide as safe.
Roundup came under intense scrutiny in 2015 when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, as a probable human carcinogen.
Since the IARC report, the scrutiny has only continued to grow. In 2017, California became the first U.S. state to list glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer. Recently, the United States National Toxicology Program (NTP) uncovered evidence that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides is potentially more toxic to humans than exposure to glyphosate in isolation.
Federal Judge Denies Monsanto Bid to Toss Roundup Cancer Lawsuits, Allows Plaintiffs’ Experts to Testify Before Juries
After years of litigation and weeks of hearings in which the science behind Roundup was scrutinized under oath, it came down to Judge Chhabria to determine whether the experts’ methodologies for analyzing the scientific evidence were valid, and thus permissible for juries to hear.
Judge Chhabria found that four of the plaintiffs’ six experts used a valid methodology to arrive at their conclusions, and as such, will be permitted to testify in court.
“…the question at this phase is not whether the plaintiffs’ experts are right,” Judge Chhabria stated. “The question is whether they have offered opinions that would be admissible at a jury trial.”
Which Experts Are Permitted to Testify Before Juries in the Roundup Weed Killer Cases?
Dr. Beate Ritz (Professor and Vice Chair of the Epidemiology Department, University of California Los Angeles) – Dr. Ritz testified in March that her review of the scientific literature led her to conclude that glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup can cause NHL. She also said that the controversial 2017 Agricultural Health Study (AHS), which Monsanto has repeatedly pointed to as a means to demonstrate glyphosate’s safety, has several shortcomings.
“I have to downgrade the importance of the AHS study for time exposure…I can’t take this study seriously if it shows no effect because all the effects are drowned in the noise of exposure misclassification,” she testified in March.
Dr. Dennis Weisenburger (Chair and Professor, City of Hope’s Department of Pathology)– Dr. Weisenburger testified that the North American Pooled Project (NAPP) study shows the risk for NHL increased almost a two-fold among individuals exposed to glyphosate over two days per year. He also said during his testimony that glyphosate probably causes all subtypes of NHL.
“I concluded with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that glyphosate and the formulations including Roundup can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans exposed to these chemicals, both in the workplace and probably in the environment,” said Dr. Weisenburger.
Dr. Christopher Portier (Former Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)– In his testimony, Dr. Portier said his analysis of animal studies led him to the conclusion that there is a high probability that exposure to glyphosate causes NHL. Dr. Portier spoke at length about the Greim (2015) study that Monsanto has pointed to as proof that glyphosate is safe and does not cause cancer. In his testimony, Dr. Portier highlighted several flaws he found with the study, noting that the individual animal pathology data in Greim was “pretty poorly documented.” According to internal Monsanto documents, a Monsanto scientist ghostwrote the Greim paper.
“To a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, given the human, animal, and mechanistic evidence, glyphosate probably causes NHL, and the probability that glyphosate causes NHL is high,” he testified.
Dr. Charles “Bill” Jameson (Member of IARC Working Group for Glyphosate Monograph 112)– Dr. Jameson testified that it is “extraordinary” that there is so much animal data for glyphosate. He also noted that animal studies demonstrate replication of several tumor sites, including liver tumors and malignant lymphoma.
According to Dr. Jameson, the abundance of animal studies only adds to the strength of his conclusion that glyphosate can cause cancer.
“In toxicology, I evaluated all of the available toxicology data I could find, and it showed that glyphosate is an animal carcinogen, and that is the premise that is widely accepted in the…scientific community, that if something is shown to be an animal carcinogen, then it is probably also a human carcinogen; and it’s biologically plausible that it is…a human carcinogen,” said Dr. Jameson.
Judge Chhabria indicated in his ruling that Dr. Jameson would be permitted to testify solely on the topic of animal studies.
Opening Statements in CA Roundup Trial
In related news, opening statements began in San Francisco Superior Court this week in the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. The case is not part of the federal MDL; it is one of thousands of state court cases making the same allegations against Monsanto.
Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson was a groundskeeper for the Benicia School District in northern California. According to his attorney, R. Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, part of Johnson’s job was to spray Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides in and around school district properties, often 50 or 60 gallons at a time.
After two years on the job, Mr. Johnson developed lesions on his body later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. According to Mr. Wisner’s opening statement, Monsanto’s failure to disclose the link between glyphosate and cancer deprived his client of being able to make an informed choice about the herbicide he used on the job.
“If you don’t warn, if you don’t give someone a choice and somebody gets hurt because of that or, God forbid, somebody actually gets cancer, then I personally believe, and I think you will as well, that you should be responsible for the consequences of that,” Wisner said.
The Johnson v. Monsanto Co. trial is expected to continue into August.