Roundup Lawsuits Over Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma May Be The Next Asbestos Or Big Tobacco Litigation: Report

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Bayer and its recently-acquired subsidiary, Monsanto, face about 15,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits brought by individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but some predict that the litigation will continue to increase dramatically, and could eventually join some of the largest mass torts in U.S. history.

Only three cases have gone before a jury so far, but each has resulted in massive damage awards against the manufacturer for failing to warn about the cancer risk associated with Roundup, including a landmark $2 billion verdict last month for a California couple who were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following years of exposure to the weedkiller. However, these verdicts may just be the tip of the iceberg.

According to a recent report by ABC News, analysts and legal watchers indicate that the Roundup litigation may become the “next” asbestos or big tobacco litigation. Both involved long-running court cases, with billions upon billions of dollars in judgments and settlements paid in recent decades, which resulted in widespread industry changes to protect consumer safety.

Despite early verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, Bayer has indicated that it is not yet ready to start making offers to settle Roundup lawsuits over non-Hodgkins lymphoma, indicating that it plans to pursue appeals for each of the losses at trial.

ABC News reports that jurors who heard evidence in the early trials predict that things will not get better for Bayer and it’s Monsanto unit. One juror from the most recent trial indicated that the jury agreed 100% that Monsanto was not only liable for failing to warn about the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but also all agreed that Monsanto acted with malice, resulting in a large punitive damage award designed to punish the company.

Another jury, from the first Roundup case to go to trial last summer, wrote letters to the judge in that case, begging for their verdict to stand. They indicated that Monsanto’s expert witnesses were unbelievable and untrustworthy.

That trial initially ended in a $289 million jury verdict in August. The judge upheld that verdict, and reduced the final judgment to about $78 million.

According the ABC News report, given the widespread and nearly ubiquitous use of Roundup for decades, several experts suggest that the litigation could end up being similar to asbestos, which led to the fall of a number of companies, special funds set up for victims, and altered the tort lawsuit landscape in America.

Some also suggest that as the public learns more about the link between Roundup and cancer, Monsanto and Bayer are quickly being seen in a similar light to major tobacco companies. During cigarette cancer litigation, internal memos revealed that the companies knew tobacco use caused cancer, but hid that information from the public. Similarly, a number of internal Monsanto memos suggest that the company has engaged in a long-term effort to manipulate scientific data, and unduly affected the outcome of safety reviews in the U.S. and Europe.

At least 1,300 of the Roundup cases are pending in the federal court system, where the litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).

After the first federal court loss in March 2019, Judge Chhabria has asked the parties to propose plans for remanding waves of cases back to different U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates if the parties are unable to resolve the litigation. He has also ordered the parties into mediation.

Bayer and Monsanto are scheduled to face at least three more trials in 2019, including cases in Missouri and Montana state courts, unless Roundup settlements or another resolution is reached to resolve the claims. However, since the weedkiller is still sold without warnings about the risk of cancer, or instructions that would minimize exposure, it is unclear how the manufacturer will be able to wrap up this liability exposure.

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