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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Roundup cases is being urged to set an early trial date for a man dying from non-Hodgkins lymphoma that was allegedly caused by exposure to the controversial weedkiller, despite Monsanto’s objections.
There are currently more than 9,300 product liability lawsuits pending nationwide, each involving similar allegations that Monsanto failed to adequately warn consumers about the cancer risks associated with exposure to Roundup. About 600 of the cases are centralized in the federal court system for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
While the first federal trial date in the Roundup litigation is scheduled to begin in February 2019, to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation, attorneys for a California man are asking that his claim be set for trial in the MDL, or that his case be remanded for an immediate trial in the Southern District of California, where it was originally filed.
According to a motion for trial preference (PDF) filed November 16, Emmanuel Richard Giglio originally filed his lawsuit against Monsanto in October 2015, and is believed to be the second oldest case pending in the federal court system. In late October 2018, testing showed a rapid progression of his disease in multiple areas, and he was told that he is now dying and may not survive long enough for scheduled bellwether cases to be completed.
“Plaintiff Richard Giglio is a 66 year old man that received a devastating prognosis for his condition just days prior to filing this motion,” according to the petition. “Mr. Giglio was told by his treating oncologist that he now has less than six months to live due to the advanced, uncontrolled spread of his cancer – Diffuse Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Unfortunately, his treatment options are severely limited, and as such, Mr. Giglio respectfully petitions this court for an expedited trial date so that he can have his day in court.”
On November 30, Monsanto filed a brief opposing the motion (PDF), saying that the courts have repeatedly determined that a plaintiff’s age and health are not good causes for expedited trial. The manufacturer argues that prognosis should only result in scheduling of the plaintiff’s deposition, to preserve his testimony in case he dies before trial.
Monsanto may stand to benefit if Mr. Giglio does not survive, with his lawyers pointing out that if the heirs continue with the case after his death, the “recoverable damages would be significantly reduced,” and Monsanto would not face liability for his pain and suffering.
A group of three cases originally filed in the Northern District of California are the only federal claims that have been selected by Judge Chhabria for a “bellwether” process, which are expected to go before juries during the first half of next year.
In addition to the federal bellwether trials, Monsanto also faces a steady stream of cases that will go before state court juries over the next year, with about a half-dozen trial dates, including a multi-plaintiff trial that will go before a jury in October 2019 in Missouri, involving more than 15 different individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following use of Roundup.
While the outcome of the early trial dates will not be binding on other claims, they are designed to help the parties determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of their arguments and facilitate potential Roundup settlements that may avoid the need for hundreds of individual cases to go to trial nationwide.