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Dozens of plaintiffs have joined in a product liability lawsuit filed late last month against Monsanto, indicating that exposure to the weedkiller Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, resulting in illness and even death in some cases.
The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on October 30, presenting claims on behalf of 45 different users of the weedkiller users, as well as some spouses or next of kin.
Each of the claims involves a Roundup weedkiller user diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) following years of exposure to the herbicide. The lawsuit alleges that Monsanto knew for decades about the cancer risks associated with their popular glyphosate-based product, but withheld warnings and information from consumers.
Concerns over those risks gained widespread attention after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that glyphosate used in Roundup and other weedkillers was a probable carcinogen. The move sparked world-wide concerns about why Monsanto failed to provide warnings and recommend safety precautions for users, and resulted in hundreds of similar Roundup lawsuits filed in courts nationwide.
“The IARC Working Group found an increased risk between exposure to glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (“NHL”) and several subtypes of NHL, and the increased risk persisted after adjustment for other pesticides,” the lawsuit states. “The IARC Working Group also found that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells.”
The complaint will be consolidated with other Roundup cases pending in the federal court system, which are currently consolidated as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California to reduce duplicative discovery, prevent conflicting rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
As part of the coordinated federal proceedings, Judge Chhabria has previously determined that the Roundup litigation will be bifurcated, first addressing general causation about the link between the widely used weedkiller and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as well as other forms of cancer, before addressing case-specific issues about whether Roundup caused cancer for each individual plaintiff.
Following any motions to dismiss based on general causation, if a Roundup settlements for users of the weedkiller are not reached, or the litigation is not otherwise resolved during the first phase of discovery, it is expected that Judge Chhabria will establish a bellwether process, where a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the lawsuits.