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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Roundup lawsuits will hold hearings the week of March 5, to determine the admissibility of expert witness testimony in litigation over cancer risk associated with Monsanto’s popular weedkiller.
There are currently about 350 product liability lawsuits pending in the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that Monsanto failed to adequately warn farmers, landscapers and other consumers about the risks associated with exposure to Roundup and the herbicide’s active ingredient glyphosate.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the Roundup litigation, the federal cases are all centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings in the Northern District of California.
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 pretrial order (PDF) issued last week, Judge Chhabri outlined the schedule for “Daubert” hearings that will begin on Monday, March 5 and continue through that Friday.
Under federal law, the Daubert standard governs the admissibility of expert witness testimony, and the hearings resolve challenges raised by each side seeking to exclude the presentation of unqualified evidence to juries who will hear the cases.
These hearings were originally scheduled for December, but Judge Chhabri delayed Daubert arguments after the publication of a study in November 2017, which questioned the link between Roundup exposure and cancer. While plaintiffs argued that the study raised nothing new, and the findings were already considered by their experts, additional time was permitted to allow the parties to submit supplemental expert reports and conduct further depositions on the findings.
According to the schedule issued last week, each side will have a total of 11 hours for direct and cross examinations, which will be tracked with a “chess-clock” approach.
Both parties have until February 26 to file a notice on the docket disclosing witnesses and the order in which they intend to call them.
The Roundup cancer litigation began to emerge in mid-2015, after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) warned that glyphosate contained in the weedkiller is a probable carcinogen.
Since then, a growing number of farmers, landscapers, agricultural workers and others regularly exposed to the herbicide have filed complaints against Monsanto alleging that Roundup caused non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other forms of cancer.
As Roundup injury lawyers continue to review and file new claims, it is ultimately expected that thousands of lawsuits will be added to the MDL over the coming months and years.
Following the conclusion of the general causation phase of the litigation, if the cases are not dismissed or Roundup settlements are not reached by the parties, it is expected that Judge Chhabri will establish a “bellwether” program, where a small group of representative cases will be prepared to go to trial.
While the outcome of these early cases will not be binding on other plaintiffs, they will be closely watched and monitored, as they may help the parties gauge how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.