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February 25, 2019

First Federal Roundup Trial Proceeds with Evidence Restrictions

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.

Federal Roundup Trial Begins Jury Selection

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.

Roundup Regulatory Manipulation

flickr/Mike Mozart

Federal Roundup Trial Bifurcation

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.

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