Roundup Cancer Lawsuit | October 2019 Update

Men Spraying PesticideJuries are telling us that Monsanto Roundup weed killer is a carcinogen that can cause cancer. Roundup contains glyphosate which many scientists believe causes an increased risk for the development of certain cancers, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), hairy cell leukemia, and multiple myeloma.

At first, the science on all of this was unclear. Many lawyers thought the lawsuits might be a coin toss between Montsanto/Bayer and the victims. It has not turned out that way as the most recent $2 billion verdict against Montsanto shows. Jurors are screaming that these pesticide is causing cancer and that they are mad it is even on the market.

The speculation about a Roundup settlement is running wild in October 2019. Many lawyers are projecting a settlement in a matter of weeks or months. If there is a Roundup settlement, you want to bring a claim as soon as possible because there could be problems with the statue of limitations.

If you or someone you loved had/have cancer and have been exposed to glyphosate from contact with Roundup, you may be eligible to bring a lawsuit for money damages for the needless harm that has been done to you. Call the lawyers Miller & Zois at 800-553-8082 or get a free, no-obligation online case review.

What is Roundup?

Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world as a weed-killer. It is used on lawns, gardens, parks, playgrounds, and more. More than $6 billion in revenue is generated every year for its manufacturer, Monsanto. Over 250 million pounds is sprayed each year. Yet, in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a "probable human carcinogen" due to the ingredient glyphosate.

Side Effects from Use

The most serious side effect of the exposure to glyphosate is cancer - non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL), Leukemia, B-cell lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Farmworkers are said to be the most at-risk class for developing NHL, which is a cancer that can start anywhere in the body from white blood cells in the immune system.  (For context, the American Cancer Society expects 74,000 Americans to be diagnosed  with NHL in 2019.)

Symptoms include anemia, chest pain, enlarged lymph nodes, and shortness of breath. Garden center employees are most at risk for developing leukemia after exposure, and symptoms of leukemia include chills, bleeding or easy bruising, fatigue, fever, severe infections, and recurring nose bleeds. Those at high risk for developing B-cell lymphoma are nursery employees, and the symptoms can include chills, an enlarged spleen, night sweats, pain/swelling in the head, and fever.

Certainly, anyone using this product is potentially at risk. But landscapers, gardeners, and farmers are most likely to have the most significant exposure to these pesticides.

Research

In September 2003, researchers conducted a study of 3,400 farm workers in the Midwest. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published an article, finding that higher rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are associated with glyphosate exposure.

A research article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health focuses on systematic reviews and analysis of over 30 years of research on the relationship between NHL and occupational exposure to an agricultural pesticide. It found a "striking increase" in the incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphomas in the last 30 years. Further, the article finds that farmers tend to have low overall mortality rates but high rates of some cancers, which the agrochemical exposure may explain. Most importantly, it confirms that glyphosate exposure, in particular, is positively associated with a common sub-type of NHL, B-cell lymphoma.

In 2015, a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the WHO, finds glyphosate to be "probably carcinogenic" and causing cancer in lab tests on animals and damage to DNA in human cells. Now keep in mind that source here. This is the WHO. It is not some plaintiffs' lawyers with a financial incentive to blame these pesticides for cancer. The WHO is one of the most respected health organizations in the world.

In response to this, Monsanto has trotted out Dr. Donna Farmer to the media. Dr. Farmer has studied chemicals at Monsanto for over 20 years. She disagrees with these new findings of a cancer risk and says that the chemical is safe (or at least there is no data to support an association). She accuses the WHO of cherry-picking the data and interpreting studies differently than researchers who actually did the study.

Dr. Farmer says that glyphosate targets a particular enzyme in plants, which humans and animals don't have. Her long-term study shows that the chemical doesn't cause cancer.

Jurors will eventually need to decide whether Dr. Farmer or whether they believe these scientists that claim these pesticides cause.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently in the process of evaluating glyphosate, as part of the standard procedure for chemicals every 15 years. There have also been regulation concerns about Roundup, including a bill introduced in Hawaii to ban it from public roads and parks. A bill passed in France banning it from home-gardening centers. There has also been a declaration by Denmark's Working Environmental Authority warning gardeners not to use it to control weeds. Time will tell but these actions appear to presage to a new movement to restrain the use of these pesticides for the public health.

Status of Roundup Lawsuits

Roundup LawsuitsThe biggest news, of course is the recent $2 billion verdict. But so much has happened to get us to that point....

In April 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles, accusing Monsanto of false advertising for its claim that Roundup is harmless to human health. An individual claim was filed in October 2015 in Delaware, for three plaintiffs, and more claims in New York and California.

Also in April, a federal judge in California refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a man who blamed Roundup for his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. His lawsuit alleges that he used Roundup to kill weeds and poison oak and that Monsanto failed to warn that glyphosate is a known human carcinogen. This lawsuit will open the door to more suits against Roundup if the history of mass tort litigation is any guide.

In May 2016, three Nebraska farmers and an agronomist were diagnosed with cancer and sue Monsanto over Roundup. They claim that Monsanto misled consumers about the chemical's safety and that they developed cancer because of it. They further allege that Monsanto "concealed or systematically sought to discredit" the dangers of the product.

One mystery in these cases has always been why the FDA was always soft-pedaling the risk associated with Roundup. In March 2017, we may have gotten an answer. We got a closer look at the relationship between the FDA and Monsanto when documents were released indicating Jess Rowland, a former deputy director of the EPA’s pesticide program, had offered to kill an FDA study of the association between Roundup and cancer.

One piece of big news in 2019 is the MDL trial judge ruled that evidence that Monsanto’s sought to ghostwrite medical studies to downplay the risks of Roundup were “super relevant” to the plaintiffs' clams.

Rowland obvious wanted to please Roundup and claim credit for suppressing the study. “If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Rowland told a regulatory affairs manager at Monsanto. When this call came to light, Rowland quickly retired. What is he doing now? You guessed it. He is a consultant for chemical companies.

To be fair, Monsanto consistently defends itself by claiming that the product is safe for people. They have fought against being required to put cancer warnings on their products since the 1980s. There is no question that there is more research to be done to solidify the HMO's opinion. But, the position that these pesticides are becoming harder and harder to defend.

About a dozen lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto and its partners by farmworkers. If compensation is awarded to one victim, it is foreseeable that many more will file a claim. Since the 1970s, millions of agricultural workers have been exposed to Roundup, and further, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is one of the most common cancers according to the American Cancer Society.

Roundup Class Action MDL Lawsuit

The first wave of roundup lawsuits against Monsanto started getting filed in 2015. The litigation started to build momentum very quickly as it became clear that there would be hundreds or even thousands more cases filed against the company. In October 2016 a federal judiciary panel created a new Multi-District Litigation (MDL) for the roundup cases (the "Roundup MDL"). This meant that all pending and future roundup lawsuits filed against Monsanto in the federal courts would be consolidated in the Northern District of California under Judge Vince Chhabria.

Creation of the Roundup MDL marked a huge step forward for roundup plaintiffs. Class action MDLs allow victims' attorneys to share resources to further investigate these cases. The Roundup MDL also makes it easier for victims across the country to file lawsuits and participate in future settlements, often with minimal effort required on behalf of the claimants.

After the creation of the Roundup MDL, Monsanto's attorneys filed a series of motions aimed at limiting the scope of discovery and scaling back the scope of the rapidly expanding class action litigation. Those efforts were repeatedly unsuccessful as the MDL ruled against Monsanto's key motions and ensured that jury trials in the first initial test cases would happen by 2019.

There will not be any more trial in 2019 in the MDL. There were cases set in St. Louis in August 2019 but they have now been pushed back to 2020.  Most observers think this gives everyone a chance to catch a breath and work on a global settlement before these trials.  

Initial Roundup Verdicts

The settlement value of the Roundup cases has recently surged because the first few Roundup test cases to go to trial resulted in massive verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs. The first big Roundup verdict came in August 2018 when a jury in one of the Roundup cases in the California State courts awarded the plaintiff $289 million in damages (later reduced by the judge to $78.5 million). In March 2019, another Roundup trial in California state court resulting in a staggering verdict of $2 billion, which included $1 billion in punitive damages. The results in these 2 states court cases were soon followed by the first Roundup case to go to trial in federal court which resulted in a jury awarding $80 million to a man who claimed Roundup gave him non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

  • Johnson v Monsanto (August 2018) $289.2 million: 46-year-old plaintiff was the former groundskeeper for a school district in the San Francisco Bay Area. As part of his job duties, plaintiff applied Roundup products to school properties on a regular basis for years. In 2015, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with large cell transformation and he became one of the first plaintiffs to file a product liability suit against Monsanto. Following an 8-week trial in San Francisco County, the jury found that Monsanto was liable and awarded $289 million in total damages, which included $250 million in punitive damages. The judge later capped the punitive damage award, reducing the total verdict down to $78.5 million.
  • Hardeman v Monsanto (February 2019) $80.2 million: This was the first Federal Court case from the Roundup MDL to go to trial. Plaintiff, 70-year-old male, and his wife lived Sonoma County, California, on 56 acres that was once used as an exotic animal refuge. Plaintiff began using Roundup products to treat poison oak, weeds and overgrowth on his property in the 1980s and continued heavy spray activity through 2012. In February of 2015, plaintiff was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The jury found that Monsanto’s Roundup products were defective and awarded $80 million which included $75 million in punitive damages.
  • Pilliod v Monsanto (May 2019) $2.055 billion: Plaintiffs were a husband and wife in their 70s from Livermore, California who used regularly used Roundup products on their home and occasionally at other properties. The husband developed large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the wife was diagnosed with central nervous system lymphoma which later progressed to NHL. After weeks of trial in Alameda County, the jury entered a staggering verdict of $2,055,206,173, which included $2 billion in punitive damages against Monsanto.
Another trial was set for St. Louis for August 2019 -- Gordon v. Monsanto, a NHL case, has been postponed until January 2020.  There is rampant speculation that Bayer wants to get a global settlement before that trial.

Settlement Value of Roundup Cancer Claims

Anytime you get a class action MDL involving a product like Roundup, the outcome of the first initial cases to go to trial are generally used to negotiate a global settlement of all future cases. As described above, the initial Roundup trials resulted in a series of massive verdicts for the plaintiffs. This doesn’t mean that all future Roundup plaintiffs are going to get similarly massive settlements. However, it does mean that the global settlement package is going to be huge and valid Roundup cases will likely have a settlement value higher than any other previous class action MDLs.

There are currently about 18,400 Roundup cases pending. If a global settlement is negotiated it will likely create some type of tiered system for these cases. At the top tier will be those cases where the plaintiffs had extensive exposure to Roundup (e.g., landscapers or others who used Roundup every day for years) and were diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. At the lower end of the tiers will be cases where the plaintiffs has less exposure (e.g., homeowners who did not use Roundup everyday) and other types of lymphona or cancers less directly linked to Roundup.

Based on settlements in prior class action MDLs and the outcomes of the initial trials, we think Roundup cases in the very top tier could have a settlement value in excess of $5-10 million. Cases in the next tier will probably have a settlement value in the range of $1-2 million. Roundup cases in the lowest tier will probably have a value under $200,000. 

It is also fair to say that the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cases are going to have a higher settlement value than the multiple myeloma cases because the science is even stronger correlating Roundup and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This is all raw speculation, of course, but it is based in part on the $8 billion settlement number that is being tossed around.  (The mediator in the cases ultimately denied the $8 billion offer.  This is ironic because the stock price soared when the offer was reported.)  You do not have to be a math major to figure out that the average payout per victim under this offer is about $500,000 if you assume a Roundup settlement of $9 billion (you can also assume that some of the Roundup lawsuits filed are not meritorious). 

A Roundup settlement would be complicated.  You would think that Bayer cannot pay billions of dollars to settle these cases and keep this product on the market without a warning.  But maybe Bayer comes up with a quality replacement for Roundup that does not cause cancer.

There is also the question of future cases.  Bayer wants finality to this litigation. But there are going to be new cases every year.  Some experts believe the time from Roundup exposure to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma manifestation can be more than 10 years.  So a $9 billion Roundup settlement - this is where our lawyers suspect it is heading - could end up being $20 billion after you consider victims that opt-out of the any settlement plus future claims in the years to come. 

Getting a Lawyer to Help You

If you or a loved one has suffered serious side effects these pesticides, call us today at 800-553-8082 or get a free, no-obligation online case review.  We will help you any way that we can. 

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