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Following years of exposure to Roundup, a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of an Illinois woman indicates that the popular weedkiller caused a fatal case of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The complaint (PDF) was filed earlier this month against Monsanto Company in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, by the personal representative and heir of Stephanie Bare-Wheeler.
Complications associated with a non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis resulted in Bare-Wheeler’s death in September 2016, according to the lawsuit, which alleges that the cancer was caused by regular use of Roundup since 1996.
The lawsuit indicates that Monsanto provided false and misleading information for Bare-Wheeler and other consumers about the risks associated with use of Roundup and other herbicides containing glyphosate.
“Despite Defendant’s knowledge that Roundup was associated with an elevated risk of developing cancer, Defendant’s promotional campaigns focused on Roundup’s purported ‘safety profile,'” the lawsuit notes. “The failure of Defendant to appropriately warn and inform the EPA has resulted in inadequate warnings in safety information presented directly to users and consumers.”
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.
The wrongful death lawsuit joins hundreds of Roundup non-Hodgkins lymphoma lawsuits filed by individuals throughout the United States, 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 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.