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The federal judge recently assigned to preside over all Roundup lawsuits indicates that the litigation will be split into two phases, with the first focusing on general causation issues over whether the popular Monsanto weedkiller is a cancer-causing agent.
As a growing number of individuals nationwide continue to file claims against Monsanto, alleging that they developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other cancers following exposure to Roundup, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings in the federal court system, centralizing all cases before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California, as part of an MDL or Multidistrict Litigation.
Following an initial status conference held on November 9, Judge Chhabria issued an order (PDF) last week, indicating that the proceedings will be bifurcated, with the first phase addressing general causation on the link between Roundup and cancer.
The litigation emerged after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate contained in Roundup is a probable human carcinogen in March 2015. The warning sparked world-wide debate about the widespread use of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkiller, and raised questions about why Monsanto failed to warn famers, landscapers, gardeners and other consumers about the potential Roundup risks.
Monsanto has attempted to dismiss the cancer risk with Roundup, maintaining that their blockbuster weedkiller is safe and that the IARC findings were based on “junk science”.
The manufacturer proposed the phased discovery plan in a case management statement submitted late last month, indicating that the general causation question may resolve the litigation without the need for discovery into specific causation issues over whether each individual plaintiffs non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis was caused by Roundup.
While there are currently only a handful of cases pending in the MDL, as Roundup cancer lawyers continue to review and file claims for farmers, gardeners, landscapers and other agricultural workers diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following exposure to the weedkiller, it is ultimately expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits will be filed over the coming months and years.
If a Roundup settlement or other 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.