Pilliod v. Monsanto

Third Roundup Cancer Trial Begins in Oakland, California

The trial of Pilliod v. Monsanto Company (now Bayer) begins with jury selection on Monday, March 25, 2019, in Superior Court of California for the County of Alameda before Judge Winifred Smith. Attorneys for the plaintiffs anticipate the trial will last about a month.

monsanto roundup 2 billion verdict

Pilliod v. Monsanto is the first case in the California Roundup Judicial Council Coordination Proceedings (JCCP) and the third Roundup cancer case to proceed to trial.

More than 250 Roundup cancer cases are consolidated before Judge Smith as part of the California Roundup JCCP. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The first case to proceed to trial, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson v. Monsanto Co., resulted in a $289 million jury verdict in August 2018, which the presiding judge later reduced to $78.5 million (Johnson v. Monsanto is a California state court case that is not part of the California Roundup JCCP). The Johnson case is currently on appeal. The Miller Firm LLC and Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman co-tried the Johnson case.

The second Monsanto Roundup cancer case to go to trial is currently underway in federal court in San Francisco. Attorneys Aimee Wagstaff (lead trial counsel) of Andrus Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore of Moore Law Group are trying the case of Hardeman vs Monsanto.

What:

The case is Alva Pilliod and Alberta Pilliod v. Monsanto Company, Case No. RG17862702, JCCP No. 4953.

Alva Pilliod and his wife, Alberta, allege that long term exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused them to develop cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma). Alva and Alberta are both in their 70s and have been married for nearly 50 years.

Attorneys for the Pilliods, The Miller Firm, asked Judge Ioana Petrou (the couple’s original judge who has since been appointed to the First District Court of Appeal) to expedite trial due to their advanced ages and cancer diagnoses, according to court filings, like they did in the Johnson trial. Monsanto opposed their request for the expedited trial date but Judge Petrou found the couple’s ages and diagnoses warranted trial preference.

Alva suffers from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his bones that spread to his pelvis and spine. He was diagnosed in 2011. Alberta’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma brain cancer diagnosis came in 2015. The couple started using Roundup in the 1970s and continued using the herbicide until only a few years ago. They have two children and four grandchildren.

The Pilliods retained the Miller Firm to represent them in their case against Monsanto and filed suit in 2018. Miller Firm senior partner Michael J. Miller and Baum Hedlund attorney R. Brent Wisner will represent the Pilliods at trial.

“We are very angry. We hope to get justice,” Alberta said in a media interview last year, noting that neither she or her husband used protective gear when they sprayed Roundup. She added that they would not have used the Monsanto herbicide if they had known the risks. “If we had been given accurate information, if we had been warned, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Monsanto filed a motion to bifurcate the Pilliod trial, as it did previously in the federal multidistrict litigation case of Edwin Hardeman v. Monsanto Co. but Judge Smith denied the motion.

We plan on issuing an update just before trial starts with the final information as to the motions in limine (allowed and excluded evidence) and the exact start time. Judge Smith is opposed to having the case televised, so absent a change via media motions or appellate intervention, she will not allow CVN to film any of the trial.

Pilliod v. Monsanto Pre-Trial and Trial Schedule

  • Tue. 3/19: More MIL (Motions in Limine) discussions
  • Wed. 3/20: Jurors panel fills out questionnaires, address hardship issues
  • Thur. 3/21: Review questionnaires
  • Fri. 3/22: Dark
  • Mon. 3/25: Voir dire, for cause challenges, jury selection
  • Tue. 3/26: Continue jury selection
  • Wed. 3/27: Complete jury selection

Thur. 3/28: Opening statements

  • Fri. 3/29: Dark
  • Mon. 4/1: Dark
  • Tue. 4/2: First Testimony (Portier)
  • Mon. 4/22: Plaintiffs rest
  • Thur. 5/2: Dark
  • Wed. 5/8: Defense rests
  • Thur. 5/9: Closing Arguments

Allegations:

The lawsuit alleges Monsanto, among other things:

  • Failed to exercise reasonable care in the design, research, manufacture, testing, marketing, supply, promotion, advertisement, packaging, sale, and distribution of its Roundup® products, in that Monsanto manufactured and produced defective herbicides containing the chemical glyphosate.
  • Knew or had reason to know that Roundup® products were defective and were inherently dangerous and unsafe when used in the manner instructed and provided by Monsanto.
  • Did not sufficiently test, investigate, or study its Roundup® products and, specifically, the active ingredient glyphosate.
  • Knew or should have known at the time of marketing its Roundup® products that exposure to Roundup® and specifically, its active ingredient glyphosate, could result in cancer and other severe illnesses and injuries.
  • Did not conduct adequate post-marketing surveillance of its Roundup® products.
  • Could have provided the warnings or instructions regarding the full and complete risks of Roundup® and glyphosate-containing products because they knew or should have known of the unreasonable risks of harm associated with the use of and/or exposure to such products.
  • Information that Monsanto did provide or communicate failed to contain relevant warnings, hazards, and precautions that would have enabled those exposed to utilize the products safely and with adequate protection. Instead, Monsanto disseminated information that was inaccurate, false, and misleading and which failed to communicate accurately or adequately the comparative severity, duration, and extent of the risk of injuries with use of and/or exposure to Roundup® and glyphosate.
  • Continued to aggressively promote the efficacy of its products, even after it knew or should have known of the unreasonable risks from use or exposure
  • Concealed, downplayed, or otherwise suppressed, through aggressive marketing and promotion, any information or research about the risks and dangers of exposure to Roundup® and glyphosate.
  • To this day, Monsanto has failed to warn of the true risks of injuries associated with the use of and exposure to Roundup® and its active ingredient glyphosate, a probable carcinogen.

Monsanto denies these and other allegations, insisting that Roundup is safe and does not cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Who:  

Attorneys for the Plaintiff

Attorneys for the Defendant 

  • From Hollingsworth LLP
    • Eric G. Lasker
    • Martin C. Calhoun
    • Kirby T. Griffis
  • From Evans Fears & Schuttert LLP
    • Kelly A. Evans
    • Jay J. Schuttert
  • From Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum LLP
    • Tarek Ismail
  • From Arnold & Porter
    • Zachary Fayne

When: 

  • Jury Selection begins on Monday, March 25, 2019.
  • Opening statements will begin on March 28, 2019.

Where: 

  • Superior Court of California, County of Alameda
  • Judge Winifred Smith
  • Department 21

Administration Building
1221 Oak Street
Oakland, CA 94612

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