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As a growing number of Roundup lawsuits continue to be filed on behalf of individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other cancers allegedly caused by exposure to the controversial weedkiller, Monsanto is calling for the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation to exclude expert witness testimony and grant summary judgment in all cases.
There are currently several hundred product liability lawsuits pending against Monsanto in the federal court system, where the cases has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California, as part of an MDL, or Multidistrict Ligigation.
As part of the coordinated management, Judge Chhabri previously bifurcated the proceedings, indicating that the Court will first address the general causation link between Roundup and cancer, before considering any case-specific issues about whether the weedkiller caused any individual plaintiff’s diagnosis.
In a motion (PDF) filed on October 6, Monsanto asked Judge Chhabri to exclude plaintiffs’ general causation expert witnesses and enter Summary Judgment in hundreds of lawsuits pending in the Roundup MDL, indicating that plaintiffs have failed to present sufficient admissible evidence to prove their cases.
The Roundup cancer litigation emerged after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) warned that glyphosate contained in the weedkiller is a probable carcinogen, which was issued in mid-2015.
Since then, a growing number of farmers, landscapers, agricultural workers and others regularly exposed to the herbicide have filed complaints alleging that Monsanto failed to adequately warn that Roundup exposure may increase the risk of cancer.
“Plaintiffs’ experts’ opinions stand in stark contrast to decisions repeatedly and consistently reached over a period of 40 years by regulatory agencies worldwide – including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (‘EPA’) and those similarly tasked with human health and environmental protection in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, and the European Union,” Monsanto’s motion states. “Every major regulatory agency charged with answering the question has, with the benefit of all the available primary data, concluded that glyphosate is not likely to pose risks of carcinogenicity, including NHL, in humans.”
Under a briefing schedule established by the court, Plaintiffs are expected to file a response and any of their own motions to exclude Monsanto expert witnesses by October 27, with a motions hearing scheduled to begin on December 11.
The arguments raised by Monsanto are likely to be impacted by evidence uncovered in the litigation, which suggests that the manufacturer has exercised undue influence over regulators in the U.S. and other countries, and manipulated data that was relied on by the agencies cited in their motion.
In August, a cache of documents were released, known as the “Monsanto Papers“, which include internal emails and memos that indicate that Monsanto officials and scientists were ghostwriters behind a number of studies declaring glyphosate to be safe, had strong influence on many of the very regulatory agencies the company is asking the court to rely on, and in some cases secretly wrote key portions of safety reviews released by those regulatory agencies.
The concerns have become so serious that the European Commission held a hearing yesterday on Monsanto’s influence over its own regulators, specifically in regard to Roundup cancer concerns.
Earlier this month, Monsanto lobbyists were banned from all EU meetings, from contacting EU officials, and using EU data sources after company officials refused to attend the hearing. It is the first time the EU has ever employed that form of punishment against a company.
Unless Monsanto is successful excluding plaintiffs causation expert witnesses, it is expected that Judge Chhabri will establish a “bellwether” trial program during the next phase of the litigation, selecting a small group of representative cases for early trial dates, to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the lawsuits.
Before ruling on the motion filed by Monsanto, Judge Chhabri has indicated that live testimony from the expert witnesses will be heard by the MDL court and any interested state court judges presiding over similar claims. Following several days of testimony, the parties are expected to argue the motions on December 15.