A weekly update on interesting numbers in product liability, class action and mass tort news from August 11–August 17. Published Fridays.
The number of acres of soybeans that are estimated to have been damaged by dicamba. Dicamba is a volatile herbicide that is prone to drift into other fields, so historically it has only been used outside the planting and growing season. In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of the herbicide on dicamba-resistant crops developed by the large agribusiness company, Monsanto. Spraying the herbicide directly on crops may have damaged nearby non-resistant fields, as winds spread the herbicide outside the initial area of application. This week, a plant scientist at the University of Missouri revised earlier estimates of damage, now saying that an additional 600,000 acres of soybean fields could have been damaged by dicamba drift. Farmers are suing Monsanto, saying the company pushed them to apply an old, more volatile version of dicamba on the resistant crops.
The total number of claims that accuse Johnson & Johnson of ignoring studies linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer. A Los Angeles case followed closely in this column is finally going to a jury, who will decide whether Johnson & Johnson should have warned consumers about talc’s links to cancer. Past verdicts in similar trials have been mixed, with some cases being dismissed outright for lack of scientific evidence and others reaching multi-million dollar verdicts. Other plaintiffs in California, New Jersey and Missouri likely anxiously await this jury’s decision.
How natural PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats claims their oatmeal is. A proposed class took issue with the “100% Natural” label, claiming that the oatmeal contained glyphosate, one of the world’s most widely used herbicides. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, came under criticism after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer linked the herbicide to cancer. This week, an Illinois judge dismissed the oatmeal lawsuit, finding that consumers couldn’t challenge the labeling under state law. However, farmers and other people that work with glyphosate are still filing lawsuits against the companies that produce the herbicide, claiming that contact more substantial amounts of the herbicide can cause certain types of cancer.
The number of tiny rodents a Philadelphia woman claims to have found in her Chick-fil-A sandwich. Ellen Manfalouti is suing the franchise owner alleging that a rodent was baked into the bottom bun of her sandwich. Manfalouti says that she knows it was a rodent because of “the whiskers and the tail.” Subsequent laboratory analysis of the animal confirmed her suspicions. She seeks more than $50,000 worth of damages for physical and psychological injuries suffered due to finding the dead rodent, saying she still experiences nightmares.
The number of lawsuits that allege that Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson concealed information that the blood-thinning drug Xarelto could cause dangerous bleeding events. The third bellwether trial in the multidistrict litigation concerning the drug continued this week in Louisiana. This trial involved a Mississippi woman who claimed that she developed gastrointestinal bleeding after being prescribed Xarelto for her deep vein thrombosis. Plaintiff Dora Mingo argued that the pharmaceutical companies should have changed the label to mandate a blood clotting test to be administered with prescriptions of Xarelto. Late this week, Mingo pushed for the jury to decide the trial after the drug companies motioned for judgement as a matter of law, claiming that no reasonable jury could find sufficient evidence to resolve the trial in Mingo’s favor. The drug companies have won the previous two bellwether trials.
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