Sept. 19, 2018 – Los Angeles, California – Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman attorney and partner R. Brent Wisner was named to the Daily Journal’s list of the “Top 100 Lawyers in California” for 2018.
As the publication notes, Wisner led the charge in handing agrochemical giant Monsanto Company a monumental legal defeat earlier this summer. Wisner served as co-lead trial counsel for Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a former Bay Area groundskeeper who filed suit against Monsanto in 2016, alleging exposure to the company’s glyphosate-based herbicides caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Johnson’s case was the first of thousands of similar lawsuits to proceed to trial.
Wisner and his colleagues on the trial team told the jury that Monsanto has long known about studies showing exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup can induce DNA damage. In 1999, Monsanto paid a consultant to review and analyze these studies, and he agreed that glyphosate caused DNA damage and therefore could lead to cancer.
But rather than pursuing further study on the issue or passing along the consultant’s findings to regulators, Monsanto buried the findings and ghostwrote a different review that conveyed there was no link to cancer. According to Wisner, that review has misled regulators in the United States and around the world for 20 years.
After five weeks of trial proceedings, the jury awarded Mr. Johnson $289.2 million ($39.2 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages), finding that Monsanto acted with malice, oppression, or fraud and should be punished for its conduct.
“Every major known carcinogen had a moment like this. A moment when science finally caught up. When a company could no longer bury it. Where people had to actually look at it and say we have a problem,” said Wisner after the jury verdict was announced.
“This case is that moment. There are [thousands of] cases filed around the United States and there are countless thousand other people out there who are suffering from cancer because Monsanto did not give them a choice…we now have a way forward.”
The litigation against Monsanto is deeply personal to Wisner; his father worked with Cesar Chavez to protect farmers and farmworkers from dangerous toxins. That passion and commitment to justice was apparent not just in Wisner’s performance during the Johnson trial, but also last summer when he released internal Monsanto documents that would become part of what is now known as the Monsanto Papers.
When Monsanto’s attorneys failed to file a motion to maintain the confidentiality of the documents, Wisner posted the documents on the Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman website and sent copies to regulatory agencies. Revelations within the documents led to worldwide scrutiny of Roundup and Monsanto’s alleged manipulation of the science behind its flagship weed killer.
Following the publication of the documents, Monsanto fought hard to remove Wisner from the federal Roundup multidistrict litigation and the Johnson case, accusing him of acting in bad faith. Wisner wears the attacks as a badge of honor. “Our view is that our job is not just to win the case, but also to see if we can improve the world,” he told the Daily Journal.
Wisner and the law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman represent nearly 1,000 plaintiffs from across the country in their lawsuits against Monsanto overexposure to Roundup. Wisner will serve as lead counsel in the Roundup cancer lawsuits consolidated before the Honorable Judge Ioana Petrou in Alameda County, California (Roundup Judicial Council Coordination Proceedings).
As of this writing, no trial dates have been set in the Roundup JCCP. However, an expedited joint preference trial has been requested for Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a husband and wife who both have non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A hearing on the request is scheduled to take place on Oct. 9, 2018, to determine the possibility of a December trial date.
About Attorney R. Brent Wisner
Brent Wisner is an attorney and partner in the Los Angeles office of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman. A Los Angeles native, Brent is driven by a deep-rooted passion for using the law to help people who have been wronged by corporations. In addition to his listing in the Daily Journal’s “Top 100,” Brent was also recently named a “Titan of the Plaintiff's Bar” by Law360.
About the Law Firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is a nationally-recognized preeminent plaintiff firm that litigates cases involving harmful consumer products, commercial transportation accidents, mass torts, class actions, pharmaceutical, and medical device products liability, and whistleblower claims. The firm has resolved thousands of cases and has won over $4 billion on behalf of clients across all areas of practice.