Yesterday, a six-person jury concluded that Roundup was a substantial cause of plaintiff’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The verdict sends a clear message to Bayer, the company that purchased Monsanto, and for the 11,000 plaintiffs in cases already filed in courts around the country – there is a link between glyphosate and cancer. Because of the case’s national importance, the jury’s recent decision will affect many Illinois toxic tort plaintiffs, as well as those across the country.
According to a recent news
covering the trial, the case involves a man who claimed that use of the defendant’s weed-killer, Round-Up, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Evidently, the plaintiff used the weed-killer over 300 times in his 26-year career. The plaintiff also claims that the manufacturer attempted to influence scientists, regulators, and the general public regarding the safety of the product.
The case is important for several reasons. First, it is only the second case in which jurors have had to determine whether the chemical composition in Round-Up is a substantial factor in causing NHL. The defendant manufacturer claims that its product is safe for human use, regardless of exposure levels. However, the plaintiff argues numerous studies contradict the manufacturer’s assertions, showing that the risk of developing cancer increases with the level of exposure to the product. The only previous case involved a successful claim by a California man who recovered $289 million earlier last year.
Another reason why the case so important is that it is a bellwether trial for more than 11,000 lawsuits filed by plaintiffs making similar claims. In situations such as this one, it is not uncommon for there to be a large number of similarly situated plaintiffs. A bellwether trial is one that raises an issue for the first time, that may be determinative of the subsequent lawsuits or at least influences how the subsequent lawsuits will proceed in some manner.
As noted above, phase one of the bifurcated trial recently concluded. Thus, the case will now move to phase two. In this case, the judge overseeing the trial decided to bifurcate the case into two distinct phases because he feared that the evidence of alleged corporate misconduct would be distracting to jurors when seeking to evaluate the safety of the product. So, under the court’s plan, first, the jury first had to determine if Round-Up was a “substantial factor” in causing the plaintiff’s cancer.