August 12, 2021 – Los Angeles, California - - Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman attorney R. Brent Wisner is featured in the inaugural publication of The American Lawyer’s West Trailblazers for 2021. The article includes a Q&A section where Mr. Wisner expounds upon some of his recent legal successes, including his groundbreaking work in the Monsanto Roundup Cancer litigation.
The American Lawyer’s Trailblazer series spotlights a select few lawyers from several practice areas who have established themselves as “agents of change.” The West Trailblazers series includes esteemed attorneys from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming who have moved the needle in the legal field.
In the piece, Wisner said he grew up knowing he wanted to be a trial lawyer. He notes that fighting for people’s rights has always come naturally, “no matter the odds.”
The odds were against him in 2018 when he received word two weeks before the first Monsanto Roundup case was slated for trial that he would co-try the case instead of a colleague who was injured in a freak accident. At the age of 34, with only a couple of trials under his belt, Wisner took the challenge of going up against the agrochemical giant head-on.
As co-lead trial counsel, Wisner delivered the opening and closing statements in Johnson v. Monsanto Co. He also cross-examined many of Monsanto’s expert witnesses and presented most of the scientific evidence. "Today is their day of reckoning," attorney Wisner told jurors in his closing statement, urging the jury to impose damages for concealing the cancer-causing potential of Roundup (glyphosate) and commercial strength version, Ranger Pro.
“My firm and co-counsel put their faith in me to be the leading force in the first trial,” said Wisner. That faith paid off: the jury awarded the plaintiff, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, more than $298 million in damages. While many may have given him long odds to pull off such a major upset in the case, Wisner had a strategy that he stuck to from the beginning of the trial:
“I put my faith in the jury and their ability to connect with my client—even in complicated, science-driven product cases. And that faith informs every decision I make at trial. If you don’t believe in the jury, they will never believe in you. – R. Brent Wisner
While the verdict was later reduced, Wisner continued to assist on the case through the appeal process. Monsanto lost the appeal, and Johnson walked away with over $20 million.
Wisner’s second crack at Monsanto as co-lead counsel proved even more impactful. Roughly a year after earning the historic verdict in Johnson, Wisner and co-lead trial counsel, Mike Miller of The Miller Law Firm with a team of lawyers from their respective law firms and two other firms, went on to win a $2 billion verdict for a California couple who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup for years. At age 35, he became the youngest attorney ever to earn a multi-billion-dollar verdict.
The verdicts helped lay the groundwork for last summer’s $10.9 billion in settlement agreements between Bayer and a handful of the leading law firms in the Roundup cancer litigation to resolve tens of thousands of cases. Wisner, who helped negotiate the settlements, was an integral part of the process.
In The American Lawyer’s West Trailblazers publication (page 88), attorney Wisner talks about the litigation’s impact:
“We brought one of the largest biochemical companies in the world to the brink of bankruptcy and forced billions of dollars to go to cancer victims and their families in thousands of settlements. More importantly, we have shown every pharmaceutical and chemical company around the world that no matter how many regulators or scientists they buy off, when the raw, unvarnished truth is displayed in a courtroom, we win.”
About R. Brent Wisner
R. Brent Wisner is a senior shareholder and vice president at the national law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman. He concentrates his practice on holding negligent corporations accountable through product liability, consumer fraud, and class action litigation. After earning groundbreaking jury verdicts worth more than $2.3 billion, Wisner is widely considered one of the nation’s top plaintiff’s trial lawyers.