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USA: Monsanto found liable in lawsuit alleging its weed killer causes cancer; co. ordered to pay $289m in damages

Herbicide_Spraying_Credit_USFWS Mountain-Prairie_via Flickr

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23 October 2018

USA: California judge rejects Monsanto's appeal to overturn a verdict which found that its herbicide causes cancer

Author: Sam Levin, The Guardian

« Monsanto trial: judge rejects bid to overturn landmark cancer verdict », 23 october 2018

A California judge has rejected Monsanto’s appeal to overturn a landmark jury verdict which found that its popular herbicide causes cancer. The judge’s ruling on Monday largely sided with Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a father of three and former school groundskeeper, who won a $289m award over the summer after alleging that his exposure to Roundup weedkiller gave him cancer. During the trial, the first of its kind, the 46-year-old also alleged that Monsanto had failed to warn him of the risks of using its product. Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, filed an appeal of the verdict, which said the company was responsible for “negligent failure”, knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”, and had “acted with malice or oppression”. Monsanto fought to overturn the verdict, arguing the evidence was insufficient. The San Francisco superior court judge Suzanne Bolanos had suggested in an initial written ruling this month that she was considering granting a new trial. But she ultimately denied Monsanto’s request. However, she has ruled to reduce punitive damages from $250m to $39m. The judge said in her ruling on Monday that if Johnson did not accept the lower punitive damages, she would order a new trial for Monsanto.


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11 August 2018

USA: Monsanto found liable in lawsuit alleging its weedkiller causes terminal cancer; ordered to pay $289m in damages

Author: Sam Levin and Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian

"Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller caused man's cancer", 11 August 2018

[M]onsanto suffered a major blow with a jury ruling that the company was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer, awarding him $289m in damages. Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a huge victory in the landmark case on Friday, with the jury determining that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure. The jury further found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”. Johnson’s lawyers (...) argued that Monsanto had “fought science”... and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson was the first person to take the agrochemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the brand Roundup causes cancer... “We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that ... Roundup could cause cancer,” Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement. Monsanto has long argued that Roundup is safe and not linked to cancer and presented studies during trial... The herbicide is registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops, but in 2015, the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, triggering a wave of legal and legislative challenges. After the trial, Scott Partridge, the vice-president of Monsanto, rejected any link between glyphosate and cancer, insisting the “verdict doesn’t change the four-plus decades of safe use and science behind the product”.

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13 July 2018

USA: Federal judge allows expert witness to claim that Monsanto's weed killer caused cancer

Author: Lucas Laursen, Fortune.com

"Why Monsanto could soon get hit with a flood of cancer-related lawsuits", 11 July 2018

The Monsanto brand may disappear soon, but claims that its most famous weed killer causes cancer will live on for years in court. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that expert witnesses can claim in court that Monsanto's Roundup weed killer causes cancer. The decision, part of an individual plaintiff's suit against the agricultural giant, makes it likely state judges across the country will hear thousands of separate cases, Reuters reported...The lawsuit, along with on-going Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, has turned up hundreds of internal documents on the matter. Earlier this year, the University of California in San Francisco added the documents to its public Chemical Industry Documents Archive.

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22 May 2018

USA: Lawsuit alleging Monsanto's weed killer causes cancer to go to trial in June

Author: Carey Gillam, The Guardian

"Landmark lawsuit claims Monsanto hid cancer danger of weedkiller for decades", 22 May 2018

...On 18 June, [DeWayne] Johnson will become the first person to take the global seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost...Judge Curtis Karnow issued an order clearing the way for jurors to consider not just scientific evidence related to what caused Johnson’s cancer, but allegations that Monsanto suppressed evidence of the risks of its weed killing products...“The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere...” Karnow wrote...Johnson’s case...is at the forefront of a legal fight against Monsanto.  Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).  Another case is scheduled for trial in October...Monsanto has fiercely denied the allegations..A company spokeswoman did not respond to a request for additional comment.  How the Johnson lawsuit plays out could be a bellwether for how other plaintiffs proceed...Monsanto’s lawyers plan to introduce evidence that other factors caused Johnson’s cancer...and to present their own experts and research supporting safety...

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11 April 2018

The Monsanto Papers: MDL Roundup (Glyphosate) Cancer Case Key Documents & Analysis

Author: U.S. Right to Know (USA)

More than 380 lawsuits are pending against Monsanto Co. in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, filed by people alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto covered up the risks.  The cases have been combined for handling as multidistrict litigation under Judge Vince Chhabria.  The lead case is 3:16-md-02741-VC.  Additionally, thousands of other plaintiffs have made similar claims against Monsanto in state courts.  Plaintiffs’ attorneys estimate the total number of plaintiffs at approximately 3,500.  The first trial in the Roundup litigation is set for June 18, 2018 in the Superior Court for the County of San Francisco.  On March 13th, 2017, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled — over Monsanto’s objections — that certain documents obtained by plaintiffs through discovery could be unsealed.  The documents...include discovery materials, transcripts of court proceedings, depositions and other case-related items...

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5 April 2018

Beer, Wine & Oreos Now Tainted With Monsanto Chemical Poison – America’s Lawyer

Author: Mike Papantonio, The Ring of Fire Network (USA)

Mike Papantonio: Monsanto will make more than two billion dollars this year from the sales of Roundup. Their blockbuster weed killer has been the most popular herbicide on the planet...Independent scientific studies have linked exposure to glyphosate a variety of different illnesses...All the while Monsanto has been telling consumers that their product is safe...As lawsuits against the company keep growing, Monsanto is now going to have to take their...defenses to the courtroom where juries will be soon deciding whether or not consumers can hold the company liable for the diseases...

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4 April 2018

Scientist Defends Opinion That Roundup Causes Cancer

Author: Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News Service (USA)

Returning to the witness stand, a scientist on Wednesday defended her opinion that Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup causes cancer.  UCLA epidemiologist Dr. Beate Ritz was invited back to court after she and other scientists spent a week testifying in March about whether glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s most popular weed killer, causes Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in humans.  Ritz’ testimony could advance more than 300 lawsuits filed against Monsanto and consolidated in a multidistrict case in San Francisco.  The suits were filed by farmers and landscapers who say exposure to Roundup’s active ingredient caused them to develop cancer of the lymph nodes...U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria must decide whether there is adequate scientific evidence to support the plaintiffs’ claims against Monsanto...Ritz was responding to criticism from Monsanto and Chhabria, who last month dismissed some of her opinions as “junk science” because she failed to account for exposure to carcinogenic pesticides in her analysis...

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29 March 2018

Inside Monsanto’s Day in Court: Scientists Weigh in on Glyphosate’s Cancer Risks

Author: Pam Strayer, Civil eats (USA)

Lee Johnson, a 46-year-old resident of Vallejo, California developed a severe skin rash in 2014, two years after he started spraying Roundup as part of his groundskeeping job...The rash turned into an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system...His is one of 2,400 lawsuits filed against Monsanto by cancer victims in courts across the country, and Johnson’s case is the first one scheduled for a jury trial.  These victims are suing to hold Monsanto accountable, claiming that glyphosate, the listed, active ingredient in its popular herbicide Roundup, caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma...The lawsuits raise the question of whether the courts can accomplish what U.S. regulators have not: control or accountability over glyphosate, a chemical that international authorities in the U.N.’s top cancer group have deemed a probable carcinogen...U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria began the process of determining whether or not scientific experts in these trials are using sound methods to reach their conclusions, and which experts can be called to the stand during upcoming federal trials...The 2,000 cases pending in state courts are not subject to Chhabria’s gatekeeping decisions and are already proceeding with the first case—Johnson’s—which is scheduled to begin in June...The hearings marked the first time that Monsanto scientists faced off in court against three top scientists who had served on the U.N.’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which in 2015 labeled glyphosate as a probable carcinogen...Monsanto’s experts...challenged the validity of the plaintiffs’ experts’ data and studies and presented their own views of the data as well as conflicting research...

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16 March 2018

Experts Behind Product Liability Suit Against Monsanto Herbicide Don’t Impress Judge

Author: Joel Rosenblatt, Insurance Journal (USA)

A lawsuit claiming Monsanto Co.’s popular weed killer Roundup causes cancer was dealt a blow by a judge’s conclusions that the opinions of the experts testifying against it are “shaky,” a potentially devastating development for the case getting to trial.  U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria is the first judge to weigh in on the toxicity of the world’s most popular herbicide...Any key witnesses who are cut from the lineup may profoundly shape the outcome of more than 300 lawsuits collected before the judge — all the cases in federal courts that seek to hold Monsanto liable for its failure to warn about the risks of using Roundup.  The San Francisco judge heard from about a dozen witnesses including toxicologists, statisticians and an oncologist...It remains to be seen which witnesses will be allowed to testify at trial on behalf of more than 700 farmers, landscapers and gardeners claiming that exposure to glyphosate — through skin contact or inhalation — caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma...At this stage of the case the judge is acting as a gatekeeper to exclude evidence not backed by scientific rigor, and evaluating whether the witnesses are qualified as experts to present their conclusions to a jury...All the plaintiffs’ experts except Ritz relied on a 2015 determination that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer...

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26 February 2018

Monsanto files request to US court for access to internal communications of campaign group Avaaz; incl. emails of signatories to anti-glyphosate petitions

Author: Arthur Neslen, The Guardian (UK)

"Monsanto demands Avaaz hands over all of its campaign data", 23 Feb 2018

A US court will today hear a request from Monsanto for access to a huge batch of internal communications by Avaaz, in a move that the campaign group says could have grave repercussions for online activism and data privacy.

Monsanto is seeking the release of all lobby documents, emails, correspondence and notes “without limitation”, where the firm or its herbicide ingredient glyphosate have been mentioned.

Avaaz says this would include personal information about its employees, as well as the email addresses of more than four million signatories to petitions against Monsanto’s GM and glyphosate policies...

A victory for Monsanto in today’s hearing would cost the online advocacy group thousands of person-hours of work time, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Avaaz’s lawyers.

It could even raise the prospect of a migration out of online activism by campaigners concerned about corporate surveillance...

Monsanto’s vice president for global strategy said the firm had itself complied with court orders to release 10m documents in the past, and called claims that it was seeking personal information on Avaaz employees “completely false”...

“This [subpoena] is directed entirely at the coordinated campaign between Avaaz and the plaintiff’s lawyers, spreading misinformation about the safety of glyphosate, or characterising it as being a carcinogen.”

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