On February 18, 2019, a California federal judge ruled on evidence disputes in a case that is a part of ongoing litigation concerning Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its connection to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco is overseeing a “bellwether” trial for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman, who accuses Monsanto of covering up evidence that glyphosate, the principal ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, causes cancer.
Early motions in this trial by Monsanto divided the trial into two phases. In the first phase, Hardeman and his lawyers will have to convince a jury that Roundup more likely than not caused Hardeman’s cancer. In the second phase, Hardeman and his lawyers will present evidence that Monsanto influenced scientific studies to cover up findings of glyphosate’s link to cancer.
Parties then filed motions in limine asking Judge Chhabria to restrict evidence that the jury will hear in each phase of the trial. Monsanto won some of the motions, restricting the jury’s ability to hear evidence in the first phase of the trial about how the company allegedly ghostwrote scientific articles claiming that Roundup was safe. But the plaintiff won some of his motions as well. Judge Chhabria decided to exclude evidence from new “causation experts” and arguments from Monsanto that Roundup was necessary to “feed the world.”
This bellwether trial follows a large verdict in late 2018 in favor of a California groundskeeper, who claimed that his cancer was caused by his use of Roundup in his job. A court awarded Dewayne “Lee” Johnson $78 million after he successfully argued that his use of Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Johnson’s verdict is on appeal.
The outcome of Hardeman’s trial and other bellwether trials may help determine the settlement options for the more than 600 Roundup cases before Chhabria. These trials may also determine whether Monsanto pursues settlement options in the more than 9,300 other cases around the country. Bayer AG, the company that recently purchased Monsanto, was eyeing settlement options late last year and may face increased pressure to settle with new theories emerging about the danger of Roundup.
Hardeman’s trial is set to begin February 25.
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