Recent court filings indicate that lawyers expect the number of hernia mesh lawsuits in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) against C.R. Bard to reach 3,000 by the end of 2019.
Currently, there are only a few hundred hernia mesh lawsuits in the MDL. However, they all involve strikingly similar allegations that Bard concealed significant defects in numerous of its polypropylene products to protect market share, causing horrifyingly debilitating and painful complications in recipients of the surgical mesh implants. These include the Bard Ventralex, Perfix and Composix among others.
Due to the similarities in the complaints, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized the federal litigation. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus is presiding over the entirety of the MDL in the Southern District of Ohio.
Following a status conference on the hernia mesh lawsuits, Judge Sargus issued a pretrial order (PTO). Judge Sargus indicates that the lawyers representing plaintiffs in the MDL predict that the litigation will have approximately 3,000 claims by the end of 2019.
To streamline this process, Judge Sargus previously approved the direct filing of hernia mesh lawsuits in the MDL. Consequently, plaintiffs have filed a “long-form” master complaint for the standard allegations. This allows new cases to enter the MDL with a “short-form” complaint. Plaintiffs only need to adopt their specific allegations in this short-form.
Judge Sargus has also established a bellwether program where the court will prepare a small group of representative cases for a series of early trial dates starting in May 2020. These early test trials will help the MDL parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases and see how juries are likely to respond to evidence that appear throughout the litigation.
Judge Sargus issued a separate case management order (CMO) March 8. The CMO outlines the form procedure and schedule for the 12 plaintiffs involved in the bellwether program to complete Plaintiff Fact Sheets (PFS). These will include case-specific information pertaining to their injuries and lawsuits. The plaintiffs must submit this information by March 25. The court has scheduled parties to meet for another conference April 17.
The court has scheduled the bellwether trials to begin May 8, 2020, July 13, 2020 and September 14, 2020.
Each of the cases brings similar allegations that Bard knew that the polypropylene mesh in Bard’s hernia repair products wasn’t adequate for use in humans and carried serious risk for permanently debilitating injuries, including mesh failure and additional surgery to remove the toxic mesh from patients’ bodies. Often, surgeons are not even able to remove all the harmful mesh or repair all the damage.
The outcomes of the bellwether trials are not binding on the remaining litigation. However, they may help push Bard to resolve the hernia mesh litigation by reaching settlement agreements. Consequently, this could eliminate the need for hundreds, maybe thousands, of individual trial dates.
The first federal “bellwether” trial over Monsanto hiding cancer risks associated with Roundup is well under way in San Francisco. The jury heard the Roundup plaintiff testify this week that he experienced frequent exposure to the glyphosate-based weed killer before his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) diagnosis. Furthermore, an expert witness indicated that the herbicide has substantial cancer risks.
The federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) selected Roundup plaintiff Edwin Hardeman’s case to go to trial first in its bellwether program. These early test trials help parties evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of their cases and to gauge jury reactions to evidence that appears throughout the litigation.
In a break from the traditional product liability trial format. the court has split the trial into two phases. The first phase will determine whether there is enough evidence to prove the weed killer caused the Roundup plaintiff to develop cancer. In the second phase, the jury will consider if Monsanto deliberately withheld safety warnings to protect profits at the peril of people.
Due to the trial’s structure, the court is limiting the evidence the jury will hear during the initial phase.
The trial kicked into high gear this week with the Roundup plaintiff testifying that he regularly got Roundup on his skin during the nearly 30 years that he used the weed killer around his home. Hardeman, 70, indicated that he normally sprayed for several hours each day, and the containers often leaked the herbicide on his skin. Furthermore, the wind also often blew Roundup back onto his body and caused him to breath in the chemical. In 2012, he stopped using Roundup. He was diagnosed with NHL in 2016.
This week has also seen testimony from one of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses. Pathologist Dr. Dennis Weisenburger testified regarding his glyphosate research. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Dr. Weisenburger said the chemical can penetrate the cells of the skin to contaminate the blood. He further indicated that it was his medical opinion that glyphosate is a significant cause of cancer among people who used Roundup regularly.
Currently, there are more than 10,000 other Roundup lawsuits pending throughout the nation’s courts, all involving similar allegations.
Hardeman’s case is the first to go to trial in the federal litigation. However, a California state-court jury awarded $289 million in 2018 to a former school groundskeeper who was dying from NHL after spraying Roundup regularly for years. Initially, the jury verdict for the Roundup plaintiff included $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages to punish Monsanto for actively endangering consumers for the sake of sales.
The trial judge drastically reduced the jury award. However, the remaining final judgement of $78.5 million still sent a strong message to Bayer and its investors about how juries are likely to respond to similar evidence that its Monsanto acquisition concealed the Roundup cancer risk for decades.
After Hardeman’s trial, at least two more federal bellwether claims are going to trial this year. Numerous of state court cases are going to trial as well throughout 2019 unless Bayer begins negotiating Roundup settlements to resolve the litigation.
As more patients learn that many of the products surgeons have been using for hernia repair surgery during the past decade are dangerously defective, hernia mesh lawsuits against Ethicon, Atrium, C.R. Bard and other manufacturers continue to flood the nation’s courts.
Recent court filings indicate that there are now more than 3,100 hernia mesh lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system. All these claims raise similar allegations that the massive popular surgical implants are considerably dangerous and unfit for use in humans.
Due to the striking similarities in lawsuits against the various larger manufacturers, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has established three federal multidistrict litigations (MDLs) to consolidate claims to reduce duplicative discovery and conflicting pretrial rulings that can further hold up this type of complex litigation.
The largest of these MDLs involve all federal Physiomesh lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its Ethicon unit. District Judge Richard Story is presiding over the MDL in the Northern District of Georgia. The Physiomesh MDL includes more than 1,800 hernia mesh lawsuits.
J&J quietly removed the defective product from the global market in May 2016 rather than issuing a proper recall to warn patients and physicians after patients began experiencing high rates of dangerous complications following surgical implantation with Physiomesh. Complications include debilitating abdominal pain, chronic infection, hernia mesh failure, erosion, adhesions, and hernia recurrence due to the defective multi-layered polypropylene mesh design. In most case, the only treatment for these complications is additional invasive surgeries.
The JPML also established an MDL for all federal Atrium C-Qur lawsuits over serious complications from the mesh’s Omega-3 fatty acid (O3FA) gel coating. District Judge Landya is overseeing the litigation in the District of New Hampshire.
Atrium introduced the C-Qur mesh in March 2006. The company intended the unique design to reduce scar tissue formation, while helping the mesh adhere to the abdominal wall. Due to the hernia mesh's defects, patients began experiencing inflammatory responses, bowel adhesions and other life-altering complications. Consequently, the litigation has exploded and now includes nearly 1,100 hernia mesh lawsuits.
Most recently, the JPML consolidated all lawsuits against C.R. Bard for a variety of dangerously defective mesh products, including Bard Composix, Perfix, and Ventralex among others. The panel centralized the lawsuits for pretrial proceedings before District Judge Admund A. Sargus in the Southern District of Ohio.
Currently, there are a little less than 250 Bard lawsuits pending in the MDL. However, Judge Sargus recently established procedures to streamline the direct filing of complaints into the MDL. Consequently, experts are projecting that several thousand more claims will join the MDL in the next coming months.
All three of the hernia mesh MDLs have established bellwether programs. The courts will prepare small groups of representative claims for early trial dates. These "test" trials help determine how juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony that appears throughout the litigation. Depending on the results of these trial, parties may be able to reach settlement agreements with the manufacturers to resolve the litigation. The first cases will be going to trial in early 2020.
The first federal Roundup trial is finally going to California court with jury selection beginning Monday over claims that Monsanto hid its popular weed killer’s significant cancer risks to protect profits at the cost of human life.
The federal Roundup trial will proceed in an unconventional format. The District Judge presiding over the entirely of the federal litigation decided to split the trial into two separate phases. In the first phase, the jury will determine if Roundup caused the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The second phase will deal with the issue of whether Monsanto should be held accountable for deliberately withholding safety warnings and instructions from the public and federal regulators.
Consequently, there are certain restrictions on the evidence the court is allowing in the first phase of the federal Roundup trial, preventing the jury from hearing much of the condemning evidence that shows Monsanto knew Roundup caused cancer for decades but continued marketing the product as safe to preserve its profit margins.
The court issued a pretrial order February 24, denying Monsanto’s last ditch effort to dismiss the upcoming series of three federal bellwether cases. The court also indicated that the plaintiffs’ specific causation experts may testify during the federal Roundup trial that glyphosate exposure from Roundup caused plaintiffs to develop NHL.
Jury selection began Monday in San Francisco for the case involving Edward Hardeman’s Roundup complaint. Hardeman alleges that using Roundup on his property to control poison oak and weeds since the 1980s caused him to develop large B-cell NHL.
The other plaintiffs and lawyers with cases pending will be closely watching the trial to see how the jury responds to evidence that is present throughout the federal litigation that has more than 10,000 other Roundup cancer lawsuits currently pending.
All the cases involve similar allegations that glyphosate and other Roundup ingredients cause NHL and that Monsanto could have prevented the widespread diagnoses of the deadly disease if it had warned consumers and provided adequate safety instructions.
Hardeman’s claim is the second case to go before a jury in the U.S. This past summer, a California state-court lawsuit went to trial. Initially, the jury awarded the dying former school groundskeeper $289 million for Roundup exposure causing his fatal NHL. This included $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages to punish Monsanto for prioritizing profits over human life. However, the trial judge eventually reduced this judgement to $78.5 million.
Plaintiffs aggressively opposed the court’s decision to split the federal Roundup trial into two phases. They argued that this would only serve to confuse the jury and limit the influence and usefulness of any verdict in the trial.
While the court will restrict the evidence in the first phase of the trial, the judge presiding over the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) rejected Monsanto’s request to exclude all evidence that the company tried to manipulate scientific reports and regulators to make Roundup seem safe. The judge ruled that the internal documents and further evidence showing that Monsanto interfered with Roundup’s regulation are “super relevant” the plaintiffs’ assertions that Roundup causes NHL.
However, the court issued another pretrial order February 18, granting a number of motions in Limine from Monsanto, including the exclusion of a monograph from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) from the first phase of the trial. The monograph represents the IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.”
In March 2015, the IARC, which is an agency for the World Health Organization, determined that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic to humans and linked it with NHL. The classification sparked a great deal of the current litigation. The court order bars the monograph due to it being a review of other studies and not evidence itself. However, the court will still allow expert witnesses to discuss and describe the IARC’s meta-analysis and classification in court.
The federal court also granted Monsanto’s request to bar evidence from the first phase of the trial relating to the company ghostwriting Roundup research to make it seem safe. But the Judge will allow this evidence in the second phase if the jury finds that Roundup causes NHL in the first phase.
Following this federal Roundup trial, at least two more federal bellwether cases will go to trial this year, as well as numerous state court cases throughout the remainder of 2019.
Ethicon hernia mesh lawsuit consolidation is under consideration by the New Jersey Supreme Court over the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary’s defective Proceed and Prolene surgical mesh products causing irreparable harm to determine if one judge will preside over the state’s cases for pretrial proceedings.
The Acting Administrative of the Courts, Glenn A. Grant, indicates that the court has received an application for the establishment of a Multicounty Litigation (MCL) for all Ethicon Proceed Surgical Mesh, Proceed Ventral and Prolene hernia mesh lawsuits currently pending in New Jersey state courts.
The New Jersey Supreme Court consolidated a similar litigation in Atlantic County, New Jersey in an Ethicon Physiomesh hernia mesh lawsuit MCL. Rather than issuing a proper recall to ensure that patients and the medical community knew about the danger, Ethicon quietly withdrew Physiomesh from the worldwide market in 2016 to protect its brand identity amidst skyrocketing catastrophic early failures and horrific complications. Now, a growing number of injured individuals are filing lawsuits over other dangerous hernia mesh products against Ethicon in New Jersey. Ethicon’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, has its U.S. headquarters there.
Currently, there are at least 200 product liability claims over Ethicon Proceed and Prolene mesh complications pending in Middlesex County, New Jersey. However, experts expect the hernia mesh lawsuit litigation will continue its rapid expansion as more individuals discover that Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson could have prevented permanently debilitating and disfiguring injuries.
“The Proceed and (Prolene Hernia System) are all manufactured and sold by Defendants Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson. All are polypropylene-based mesh prosthetics indicated for the repair of hernias. These products are defective and unsafe for their designed and intended use,” the original hernia mesh lawsuit MCL application states. “The claims that are the subject of this application have one important commonality: all actions allege injuries stemming from certain deleterious properties of polypropylene, the base components of the products discussed in this application.”
Plaintiffs assert that Ethicon and J&J defectively designed and manufactured the hernia mesh products in a way that made them patently dangerous. Ethicon Proceed mesh contains a layer of Oxidized Regenerated Cellulose (ORC) which attaches to a layer of polypropylene mesh with polydioxanone. This design is unique to the Proceed mesh and allows for bacterial contamination to thrive and egregiously harm patients, causing life-threatening injuries from the delamination of the two layers causing seroma formation.
The hernia mesh lawsuit MCL would centralize and consolidate all the claims before one New Jersey state court judge. This consolidation helps avoid duplicative discovery and conflicting pretrial to serve judicial efficiency. The plaintiffs are requesting the cases go to either Atlantic, Middlesex, or Bergen countries. However, they would prefer Middlesex.
The MCL process is similar to a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the federal court system where another Ethicon hernia mesh lawsuit consolidation is currently ongoing in the Northern District of Georgia. Currently, there are about 2,000 hernia mesh lawsuits pending before District Judge Richard Story in the MDL. The court is preparing a small group of bellwether cases to go to trial starting in February 2020. These early test trials will help parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony that appears throughout the litigation.
The court overseeing the federal Roundup multidistrict litigation (MDL) has granted a dying man’s request for an early trial and ordered Monsanto to take his Roundup deposition immediately to preserve his testimony due to his failing health from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from exposure to the popular weed killer.
Currently, there are nearly 10,000 product liability Roundup lawsuits pending throughout the nation’s court systems. Plaintiffs allege that Monsanto actively hid the connection between its popular weed killer and cancer to protect its market share.
About 600 cases are pending in the federal MDL in the Northern District of California before District Judge Vince Chhabria. As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Chhabria selected three lawsuits that were originally filed in the Northern District of California to be part of a bellwether trial program. These early test trials help parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence that appears throughout the litigation. The court has scheduled the first bellwether trial to begin later this month.
In November 2018, plaintiff Emmanual Richard Giglio requested the court to give his case preference for trial or to remand his case back to the Southern District of California since he is dying. He may not live long enough to even see the outcome of the first round of bellwether trials.
This past week, Judge Chhabria issued a pretrial order, indicating that the court will include Giglio’s claim as part of the second group of bellwether trials. The order also mandates that Monsanto must take Giglio’s Roundup deposition by March 6. The court will determine the schedule for the second group of trials following the conclusion of the first bellwether trial which begins February 25.
Monsanto is also facing around a half-dozen state court trials nationwide over the next year. California state court granted a husband and wife who are both dying from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after exposure to Roundup an early trial date. Their case goes before a jury in March. Also, a series of Missouri trials will begin in 2019, including a multi-plaintiff trial with more than 15 different individuals with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to go before a jury in October.
The DePuy Pinnacle hip settlement reached late this past year, covering approximately 3,000 claims, is being expanded to resolve most of the litigation still pending against the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary over knowingly selling defective metal hip implants.
Bloomberg News reported Monday that J&J’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit has reached a settlement agreement that should resolve most of the remaining Pinnacle hip litigation in the U.S.
So far, no further details on this latest development are available. However, J&J agreed to a $120 million hip settlement to resolve state attorneys general claims, accusing the manufacturer of employing deceptive marketing methods by failing to warn patients and the medical community about the metal-on-metal hips’ significant risks.
J&J has yet to acknowledge or comment on this latest hip settlement. But a Texas federal court dismissed a jury mid-trial, apparently in relation to the settlement agreement.
Currently, there are more than 10,000 DePuy Pinnacle hip lawsuits from individuals across the country who suffered painfully debilitating complications from the defective metal-on-metal implants. Due to striking similarities in cases pending in the federal court system, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated the litigation in 2011. The JPML put District Judge Ed Kinkeade in charge of the multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of Texas.
As part of the MDL’s pretrial proceedings, the federal court put numerous bellwether cases before juries in recent years. Several of these test trials resulted in staggering verdicts for the plaintiffs with awards reaching upwards of several hundred million dollars.
Despite several juries reaching similar considerable verdicts due to the substantial evidence that the companies clearly knew the hips were dangerous but continued to aggressively market the implants as safe to preserve profits, J&J had previously held that it would not settle the DePuy Pinnacle hip cases, indicating it fully intended to continue defending the litigation. However, the company’s position has clearly changed.
Late this past year, a jury ordered J&J to pay six plaintiffs a $247 million verdict. Prior to this award, other juries returned with a $500 million verdict in March 2016 and a $1 billion verdict in December 2016. The court later reduced the first verdict to $151 million and the second to $500 million under Texas state damage caps. However, the massive verdicts provided a clear signal on how juries were likely to respond to similar trial cases in the future.
Previously, in a similar litigation, J&J agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion to settle lawsuits over its defective DePuy ASR metal hip line. This recalled hip system was based on the DePuy Pinnacle metal hip’s design.
A new Roundup lymphoma lawsuit claims Monsanto actively concealed the weed killer’s life-threatening health risks and withheld warnings to protect its bottom line at the cost of human life.
Dwight Alexy filed the complaint late this past week in the Eastern District of Missouri. His Roundup lymphoma lawsuit joins thousands of other similar claims pending in federal and state courts across the nation, attempting to hold Monsanto accountable for its blatant disregard for the safety of its consumers.
Alexy says he used the popular glyphosate-based herbicide regularly since 1997, causing him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). According to his Roundup lymphoma lawsuit, Monsanto knew about the weed killer’s significant cancer risks and withheld this information from regulators and the public for decades. The agrochemical behemoth even went so far as to aggressively market Roundup as exceptionally safe.
“Defendant’s statements proclaiming the safety of Roundup and disregarding its dangers misled Plaintiff,” the claim states. “Despite Defendant’s knowledge that Roundup was associated with an elevated risk of developing cancer, Defendant’s promotional campaigns focused on Roundup’s purported ‘safety profile’.”
Consequently, Monsanto deprived Alexy of the ability to take proper precautions in handling the chemical, putting his life, and countless others, in significant danger to line its considerable coffers.
Alexy’s Roundup lymphoma lawsuit brings strikingly similar allegations as more than 10,000 other Roundup claims pending nationwide. The plaintiffs overwhelmingly assert that Monsanto knew Roundup was patently dangerous and unsafe. However, the company actively hid this information from consumers and federal regulators to protect sales.
Due to the commonalities of fact and questions of law in the allegations, the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) has scheduled a series of bellwether trials to start going before juries this year. These test trials will help the litigation parties gauge how juries are likely to react to certain evidence and testimony that recurs throughout the litigation.
In August 2018, the first Roundup trial in the U.S. ended in a $78 million verdict for a former California groundskeeper. The California courts granted him an early trial date, because he is currently dying from NHL from Roundup exposure.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized all federal claim in the ongoing MDL before District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California. The MDL has set the bellwether process to proceed later this month. Furthermore, there are more than a dozen more claims going to trial in Missouri and California state courts in 2019.
The outcomes of the bellwether trials do not directly impact Alexy’s and other plaintiffs’ claims. However, if Monsanto fails to negotiate Roundup settlements or reach other arrangements to resolve the litigation, the company undoubtedly will face thousands of plaintiffs in individual trials in the coming years.
More former U.S. service members continue coming forward over defective 3M earplugs causing significant permanent hearing damage. They allege that the manufacturer deliberately withheld information about the earplugs’ problems from the U.S. government and service members to safeguard profits at the risk of those laying down their lives for our nation.
William Peek and Jared Pullium filed the complaint January 25 in the District of Minnesota. They indicate that 3M Company and its Aearo Technologies acquisition knew the Combat Arms earplugs were patently defective and did not offer adequate hearing protection. However, the companies continued to profit off the defective 3M earplugs, placing millions of soldiers in harm’s way to shore up their mutual bottom lines.
Peek served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1989 through 2009, as a Brig and Drill Instructor and on a convoy team. The compliant indicates the military issued him Combat Arms earplugs before deploying him to Iraq in 2004. During his deployment, combat and training subjected him two loud noises from mortar and rocket attacks. Consequently, he received a tinnitus diagnosis in 2006 and also continues to suffer from permanent hearing loss from the defective 3M earplugs.
Pullium served in the U.S. Air Force from 2008 to 2012, as a Military Police Officer. The military provided him with the defective 3M earplugs in 2008. During his deployment to Kuwait in 2008 and 2012, he used the Combat Arms earplugs at firing ranges and when in combat. Subsequently, he received a hearing loss and tinnitus diagnosis in 2013. He was only 22 years old.
Neither veteran had any signs of hearing loss or damage before receiving the defective 3M earplugs in the military. They never received proper instruction on their use or warnings that they were too short and could move out of position. Consequently, military service members didn’t have adequate hearing protection once the earplugs failed to seal the ear canal.
Aero initially introduced the Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) before 3M acquired the company. The manufacturer designed the earplugs to work as traditional earplugs when placed one way and they provided filtered noise reduction the other, blocking battlefield noises, while allowing spoken commands to come through.
“The Combat Arms earplugs contained no warnings, or in the alternative, inadequate warnings and/or instructions, as to the risk that the Combat Arms earplugs would allow damaging sounds to bypass the earplug thereby posing a serious risk to Plaintiffs’ hearing unbeknownst to Plaintiffs,” the complaints states. “The warning and instructions that accompanied the Combat Arms earplugs failed to provide the level of information that an ordinary wearer would expect when using the Combat Arms earplugs in a manner reasonably foreseeable to Defendants.”
In July 2018, 3M reached a $9.1 million settlement with the Department of Justice over the Combat Arms earplug defects and subsequent problems. The settlement resolved claims that 3M actively defrauded the government by knowingly providing and promoting the defective earplugs, causing the government to have to address soldier hearing loss.
Peek and Pullium join the rapidly growing ranks of individuals filing lawsuits over the defective 3M earplugs causing permanent hearing loss. More than three million U.S. veterans suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus. Many of these service members’ hearing could have been spared if 3M had disclosed the defects instead of seeking to profit from the dangerous product.
The District Judge overseeing the federal Roundup cancer litigation rejected Monsanto’s bid to exclude compelling evidence of Roundup regulatory manipulation during the first phase of the trial set to begin next month, ruling that Bayer’s agrochemical unit's blatant manipulation of regulators and scientific studies was “super relevant” to the underlying question of whether the popular weedkiller causes cancer.
Currently, there are about 10,000 claims pending throughout the state and federal court systems nationwide. The lawsuits all involve similar allegations that frequent exposure to Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, and other ingredients in the herbicide caused users to develop non-Hodgins lymphoma (NHL). Plaintiffs assert that Monsanto knew about the significant link between Roundup and cancer for years but actively concealed the risks to protect profits at the cost of human life.
Due to the striking similarities in the allegations, injuries, and questions of law in the claims pending throughout the federal court system, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated the entirety of the litigation to serve judicial efficiency by reducing conflicting pretrial rulings and duplicative discovery. District Judge Vince Chhabria is presiding over the MDL in the Northern District of California. The MDL is currently in the process of launching the bellwether trial process. These early “test” trials help gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony that is present throughout the litigation.
This past year, California state court ordered Monsanto to pay $78.5 million to a former school groundskeeper after he developed fatal NHL from exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides on the job. The jury determined the agrochemical behemoth knew about Roundup’s significant cancer risks but provided grossly misleading information to federal regulators and consumers, telling the public that Roundup was “safer than table salt.”
MDL plaintiffs intend on presenting evidence from this trial that indicates Monsanto actively conspired to sway regulators and independent studies. The company even went so far as to ghostwrite reports that it used to avoid stricter regulations on the weed killer that would have cut into the product’s market share.
In early January, Judge Chhabria granted Monsanto’s request to bifurcate the upcoming MDL trial, which the court has scheduled to begin February 25. This means that the parties will present the case to the jury in two phases. The first phase will address if Roundup exposure could have caused plaintiff Edwin Hardemann’s NHL diagnosis. The second phase will directly address Monsanto’s failure to warn about the risk, as well as any damages.
At the time, Judge Chhabria said that sidestepping the morality issues of Monsanto’s behavior warranted the unusual splitting of the trial so that it would not distract the jury. However, the court also suggested that if the plaintiffs brought evidence of Roundup regulatory manipulation and influencing scientific study outcomes that it would probably be admissible during the causation phase of the trial.
Consequently, Monsanto filed a pretrial motion to exclude specific evidence from the primary phase, saying information that the company had influenced scientists and regulators would automatically prejudice the company and that this could cause jurors to ignore the scientific evidence in the case.
However, Reuters reported that Judge Chhabria issued a decision during a hearing Monday, ruling that the court would allow plaintiffs to present this evidence during the causation phase of the trial. He sided with plaintiffs that Monsanto’s influence on the scientific and regulatory communities to get more favorable results was extremely relevant to causation.
However, the court is excluding two internal documents on lobbying issues from the first phase of Hardeman’s and the two subsequent bellwether trials.
Unless Monsanto begins negotiating Roundup settlements or making moves to otherwise resolve the litigation, the company will likely face a continually mounting number of individual trial dates in courts nationwide in the coming years as more people continue to develop devastating effects from exposure to the weed killer.