Monsanto is facing a variety of lawsuits for a variety of different things. In relation to their Roundup product, for instance, they are currently facing litigation from people who have claimed that the manufacturer falsified how big of an area their solution can cover when diluted. These plaintiffs have recently won their Roundup lawsuit case, but Monsanto has appealed the decision. But the biggest current Monsanto lawsuits and litigation in relation to their Roundup product are surrounding the allegation that the glyphosate ingredient contained within it can cause people to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), as well as other forms of cancer. In a landmark verdict, Dewayne Johnson has recently been awarded $289 million in his case against the agricultural giant. It is not yet clear whether Monsanto will appeal against that decision.
Facts about Monsanto Roundup
It is important to understand what is being claimed in the various pieces of litigation against Monsanto. Essentially, plaintiffs state that the product, Roundup, has a main ingredient, glyphosate, that is linked to various cancers, including NHL. This has been confirmed by a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), which has in turn resulted in countries across the world taking Roundup off its shelves.
The IARC report is the basis for all the lawsuits against the company. This is because their have issued a formal monograph in which glyphosate is listed as a “probable carcinogenic” to humans. Yet, despite this, Monsanto continued to not just offer Roundup to the public, but also to market it as “safe for humans and the environment”.
Furthermore, in their lawsuits, people claim that Monsanto has known about the link between glyphosate and cancer for several decades, and that they therefore engaged in false advertising when marketing Roundup as “safe”. Proof that this has been going on for a long time is evident from the lawsuit filed in 1996 by the New York Attorney General, in which the allegation that Monsanto’s spray-on herbicide, based on glyphosate, was “practically non-toxic” and “safer than table salt”. In this lawsuit, it was determined that Monsanto’s claims were indeed deceptive and misleading.
However, now, over 1,100 cases are pending in both state and federal courts as a result of the allegation that glyphosate could be linked to NHL. Many of those who have filed suits are agricultural laborers and gardeners, which is something that was specifically noted in the IARC report as well. The Environment Protection Agency, the federal agency in this country, have long not classified glyphosate as carcinogenic but they have now expressed that they have concerns. Specifically, they have said that “glyphosate ranks high among pesticides causing illness or injury to workers, who report numerous incidents of eye and skin irritation from splashes during mixing and loading.”
In addition to this, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides has been fighting against glyphosate for many years. In 1995, they noted that glyphosate was clearly associated with pesticide illness, being the third most commonly reported cause.
It is obvious that Monsanto is facing some difficult times. Countries the world over have now banned Roundup as well as a variety of other herbicides that are glyphosate based. The Netherlands banned all glyphosate based herbicides in April 2014, including Roundup. France took similar action, as did Bermuda, with both countries banning both private and commercial sale.
Examples of Monsanto Lawsuits and Litigation
Over 475 different lawsuits currently are pending against the company in the U.S. District Court of San Francisco. These have been added to a multidistrict litigation (MDL) as they are all by people who claim that exposure to Roundup caused either them or their loved ones to develop NHL. They also claim that Monsanto knew about the risks but chose to hide them, putting profits over people. The MDL is now heard by Judge Vince Chhabria under 3:16-md-02741-VC.
The so-called “Monsanto Papers” are also extensive. Monsanto had requested that all internal communications and records would be hidden from the public. However, the majority have now been declassified, showing the extent of cases against the giant. See also Examples of Monsanto Lawsuits & Litigation
Between 4,000 and 5,000 individuals are engaged in state litigation against Monsanto. The very first trial commenced on June 18, 2018 and was that of Dewayne Johnson, which was heard by the Superior Court for the County of San Francisco. The jury returned on August 10, 2018 and ordered Monsanto to pay $289.25 million in damages, $250 of which were punitive damages. This was a landmark case and is likely to drive the decisions in many other cases as well. What is particularly interesting about this case is that it not only acknowledges the link between Roundup and NHL, but that it also suggests Monsanto did indeed know about the dangers for decades yet chose to suppress these from the public.
Dewayne Johnson has terminal NHL. He worked as a groundskeeper for a school district for most of his life and had regular exposure to the product. In fact, he believes he used it at least 30 times per year. He also recalls at least two occasions in which he was drenched in the product and came in direct contact with it, therefore. While he does not claim that one specific occasion was the cause of his terminal cancer, he does believe that the continuous exposure is the reason. He also believes that he was duped by the company because the product was marketed as being completely safe. It seems that a jury agrees with him, although it has been a long hard battle. Because of the terminal nature of his cancer, the case was allowed to be fast-tracked, yet it was first listed towards the beginning of 2016.
Indeed, various litigation documents have clearly demonstrated that Monsanto has purposefully attacked legitimate studies into Roundup and even created fake data to suit their own agenda. They engaged in a lengthy campaign that was designed to convince farmers, the government, and the general population that there was no danger in using Roundup. In fact, there are even allegations that Monsanto colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency in order to refute that there was a connection between glyphosate and cancer at all. See also Roundup Can Cause Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Charles and Sandra H. are two other plaintiffs that have sued Monsanto. They state that Charles used the product and suffered a very severe adverse reaction. Specifically, he developed NHL and the H.’s claim that Monsanto is to blame for this. This particular case was filed on January 31, 2018 in the federal court of Missouri. It is accepted that Charles H. has developed NHL. He was a resident of Indiana and states that he regularly purchased and used Roundup weed killer during the 1990s, for agricultural use. However, in 2016, he received a NHL diagnosis. His case claims that Monsanto is liable for design defects, negligence, failure to warn, misrepresentation, fraud, violation of consumer protection laws, and suppression.
Meanwhile, there have also been lawsuits by Monsanto itself, which seem to point to clear attempts to suppress evidence. As is shown in the Monsanto Papers, the company field a suit against Avaaz, demanding that the activist group releases all communications, public and internal, in relation to glyphosate. See also Can Using Weed Killer Give You Cancer?
Another bitter battle was fought within the EU (European Union), who reauthorized the pesticide for use in its territories. However, the new lease was a five year rather than a 10 year one, which means both sides lost to a degree. The five year renewal has come under heavy criticism, particularly now that the Dewayne Johnson verdict has been returned, and this has caused outrage among environmental activists and agricultural workers across the EU alike. It is not clear, therefore, whether further litigation will be started to revoke this renewal.
Meanwhile, some are saying that litigation against Monsanto is nothing but a PR campaign. The site the case of the Roundup Product Liability Litigation, in which a judge determined that lawyers would not be allowed to bring forward further witness testimony against Roundup. This happened in the U.S. District Court of Northern California and has sent shock waves through the world.
It seems, with so many arguments for the dangers of glyphosate and so many against, that there will be no real clarity for a very long time. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of people around the world who have NHL and who believe this has been caused by exposure to Roundup and other glyphosate-based products will continue to fight for what they believe is right. The verdict in the Dewayne Johnson case has certainly given them hope, although it is expected that Monsanto will appeal the decision.
- 3:16-md-02741-VC (October 28, 2017). Retrieved from https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Key-Characteristics-of-Carcinogens-paper.pdf.
- DeWayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company, et al, No. 3:2016cv01244 – Document 52 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (May 2, 2016). Retrieved from https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/california/candce/3:2016cv01244/296571/52/.
- Attorney General of the State of New York. Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. Environmental Protection Bureau (1996). Retrieved from https://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/fraud.pdf.
- US Right to Know, The Monsanto Papers: Roundup (Glyphosate) Cancer Case Key Documents & Analysis (n.d.). Retrieved from https://usrtk.org/pesticides/mdl-monsanto-glyphosate-cancer-case-key-documents-analysis/.