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The widow of a family farmer who died after a fight with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, indicating that his death was caused by decades of exposure to the weedkiller Roundup.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Tara L. Divittorio in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on August 14, on behalf of herself and the couple’s minor children.
Monsanto Company is the sole defendant in the wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that the manufacturer of the popular weedkiller has misled farmers and agricultural workers worldwide by indicating that there were no health risks associated with Roundup and it’s active ingredient, glyphosate.
According to the lawsuit, Dan J. DiVittorio Jr., of Independence, Louisiana, used Roundup regularly for at least 35 years, while tending to his family’s farm. As a result of exposure to the weedkiller, the family indicates that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2016, and died of complications associated with the cancer on June 21, 2017.
“For nearly 40 years, farms across the world have used Roundup without knowing of the danger its use poses. That is because when Monsanto first introduced Roundup, it touted glyphosate as a technological breakthrough: it could kill almost every weed without causing harm either to people or to the environment,” the lawsuit states. “Of course, history has shown that not to be true.”
In mid-2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate 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.
The complaint joins hundreds of non-Hodgkins lymphoma lawsuits, each raising similar allegations that the cancer 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 weedkiller 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 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.