Cancer Diagnosis Caused by Roundup Weedkiller, Lawsuit Alleges

A product liability lawsuit filed against Monsanto alleges that a Tennessee man developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma that was caused by exposure to the weedkiller Roundup, indicating that the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings and safety recommendations that may have helped avoid the cancer diagnosis. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Michael R. Fair in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on September 12, claiming that Roundup and it’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is unreasonably dangerous to human health, even when the weedkiller is used as directed by Monsanto.

Fair used Roundup for years to kill weeds, indicating that his cancer diagnosis with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was a direct result of exposure to the herbicide.

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“Defendant’s statements proclaiming the safety of Roundup and disregarding its dangers misled Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant’s failure to adequately warn Plaintiff resulted in (1) Plaintiff using and being exposed to glyphosate instead of using another acceptable and safe method of controlling unwanted weeds and pests; and (2) scientists and physicians failing to warn and instruct consumers about the risk of cancer, including NHL, and other injuries associated with Roundup.”

In mid-2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate contained in Roundup as a probable human carcinogen. The move has sparked world-wide concerns about why Monsanto failed to provide warnings and recommend safety precautions for users of Roundup, and sparked the avalanche of recent product liability lawsuits filed in courts nationwide.

Fair’s lawsuit joins hundreds of Roundup cancer lawsuits filed by individuals throughout the United States, each raising similar allegations that a non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis may have been avoided if Monsanto had provided adequate warnings.

Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all federal Roundup cases in October 2016, centralizing the claims 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 MDL 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, before addressing case-specific issues about whether Roundup caused cancer for each individual plaintiff.

Following resolution of any motions to dismiss based on general causation, if a Roundup cancer diagnosis settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached 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.

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