Roundup is a product made by Monsanto that contains glyphosate. It is a widely used weed killer by not just professionals such as landscapers, gardeners, and farmers, but also by everyday individuals all over the world. Monsanto has always claimed that the herbicide is safe to use and that it is non-toxic. However, users have started to come forward who have claimed that the product has caused them to develop various medical conditions, including cancer.
The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), part of the WHO (World Health Organization) has studied glyphosate and concluded that it can cause NHL (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). They have also declared Roundup as a “probable carcinogenic”.
Additionally, the product has been associated with other cancers. People who used Roundup and who developed NHL and other cancers have felt that Monsanto was aware of this and that they put profits before people. As a result, they have started a number of lawsuits against the company. See also How Roundup Can Cause Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Ongoing Cases Against Monsanto
There are currently around 800 cases nationwide claiming Monsanto’s Roundup product was directly responsible for people developing NHL and other forms of cancer. Cases are being heard in the California federal court and in the Missouri and Delaware state courts. The cases against Monsanto are strengthening as the evidence is now concrete.
300 different lawsuits have been consolidated into one MDL (Multidistrict Litigation) and, by 2016, they moved on to pre-trials in the U.S. JPML (Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation).
These lawsuits claim that using Roundup has caused not just NHL, but also pancreatic islet cell tumors, renal cell carcinoma, Parkinson’s disease, skin tumors, DNA damage, and chromosomal damage.
It is likely that a Bellwether trial will be held in order to determine the responses of the jury to these claims. The outcome of this will likely drive future settlement cases against Monsanto as well. See also How to File a Monsanto Roundup Cancer Lawsuit 2018.
The current lawsuits represent people from all over the country, although the highest concentrations are in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin. The outcomes of these cases will help determine a number of things and what is already known is that juries are considering a variety of factors in particular, being:
- How long someone has had cancer or health issues relating to Roundup.
- Whether they have already had other diseases that could have been caused by Roundup and how much they paid for this.
- What the impact on a person’s physical and mental health is as a result of the disease.
- Loss of earnings as a result of the injury.
- Future expenses for medical treatment as a result of the injury.
Final Approval Hearing
On April 17, 2018, the court held a Final Approval Hearing in relation to the Roundup cases. On May 25, 2018, a Memorandum and Order Granting Final Approval of the Class Settlement was issued. However, Monsanto appealed against this on June 14, 2018, which has resulted in a delay of payments. Unfortunately, there is no clarity yet on how long it will take for this particular part of the process to be resolved.
In this particular case, the plaintiffs have alleged that Monsanto falsely advertised their Roundup products as making more solution than they could. Monsanto denies this and also denies wrongdoing. What makes this case interesting is that it is not related specifically to the cancer product liability, but rather to other false advertising. The outcome of this case is likely to have an impact on how the jury sees the trustworthiness of Monsanto in the other cases, however. What has been agreed, although Monsanto is now appealing against this, is that any member of the settling Class, which is anyone who has purchased the Roundup Concentrate products, will be entitled to receive a settlement.
It has been proposed that Monsanto makes a fund of $21,500,000 available for this, providing monetary relief to the class member claims but also expenses and fees.
Effectively, if the class members win their case, they will be able to receive a refund of around 50% of the weighted average retail price of the specific product they had purchased.
The above case is of importance because its outcome could bring Monsanto’s reputation into disrepute. But what is perhaps even more important is the case of Dewayne Johnson, who has arguably become the face of the Roundup lawsuits in relation to the carcinogenic. Dewayne Johnson worked in the California county school systems as a groundskeeper. He used Roundup, as well as other glyphosate pesticides, for many years until he was diagnosed with NHL. Johnson himself claims to have used Roundup around 30 times every year. Additionally, he has stated that there have been at least two separate occasions in which he was drenched in Roundup, spilling it on his body.
Johnson was one of the first to file a cancer lawsuit against Monsanto in relation to Roundup, which happened in January 2016. In his claim, he states that his continued use of Roundup was a major contributing factor in his cancer. His diagnosis was terminal, which allowed him, under California law, to seek a fast-track lawsuit. However, despite this, it took almost two and a half year for the case to be heard by a jury. See also Examples of Monsanto Lawsuits & Litigation.
Johnson’s case revolved around the fact that glyphosate has been named a “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the IARC. Additionally, he added that insufficient testing has been completed on the formulation of Roundup. The product contains not just glyphosate but also other chemicals.
Johnson’s case was finally heard in front of a San Francisco jury. On August 10, 2018, they returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Johnson. He was awarded $289 million in total.
This includes $39 million in compensatory damages, as well as $250 million in punitive damages. Yet, Monsanto still claims that their Roundup product is safe to use. It is likely, therefore, that they will appeal this decision as well, hoping that the ruling will be overturned or, at least, significantly reduced. However, the verdict is nevertheless very significant, because it means that public perception is turning against the agricultural giant.
Glyphosate and General Mills
Indeed, the consequences and reverberations are already being felt. This is true not just for Monsanto, but also for all other companies that have used glyphosate in their products. Cheerios, a product manufactured by General Mills, for instance, also contains glyphosate. While few people had looked at the link between glyphosate in food and cancers, now that the Johnson verdict is in, they have started to come forward. Indeed, the first lawsuit against General Mills has already been listed. Because of the Roundup lawsuit, people feel that all products containing glyphosate are now a potential hazard, particularly if they were listed as safe. See also What is Glyphosate? How is It Used?
Mounira Doss has sued General Mills over their concentrations of glyphosate in Cheerios. She claims that the EWG (Environmental Working Group) has tested Cheerios and found that they contained between 470 and 530 glyphosate parts per billion (ppb). According to the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), grains can contain up to 30,000 ppb of glyphosate, far higher than what is found in Cheerios. However, the EWG has also stated that concentrations above 160 ppb are detrimental to health, which would render Cheerios dangerous for consumption.
General Mills has stated that all regulatory safety levels are being met and that their products are completely safe. They claim to have followed the rules as highlighted by the EPA and that these rules are followed to the letter.
Indeed, General Mills states that they even check that their famers, who grow the various oats and wheat, stick to those regulations. The outcome of this case will take a long time to become public. However, it shows the impact that lawsuits against Monsanto are having on the world and on many consumer products that have long contained glyphosate due to the heavy use of pesticides in the agricultural environment in particular.
No statements have been made yet by Monsanto on the outcome of the Johnson case. Dewayne himself, meanwhile, believes the verdict shows that his actions, and ultimate death, will not have been in vein. The result is very significant on a global level because Roundup is used the world over by professional and amateur gardeners and the agricultural industry alike. Whatever the continuation of this case will be, people seem to be of the consensus that it is time for Monsanto to come clean and face its losses, providing support for the thousands of people who have been affected by this worldwide. On the other hand, it won’t be the first time that a major giant such as Monsanto has been able to reverse a verdict or even win numerous cases after a significant loss.
- UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI, Case No. 4:17CV01252 AGF (May 25, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.roundupconcentratesettlement.com/content/documents/58-Order%20Granting%20Final%20Approval.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/.
- Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40 – Protection of Environment, PART 180—TOLERANCES AND EXEMPTIONS FOR PESTICIDE CHEMICAL RESIDUES IN FOOD (July 1, 2014). Retrieved from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CFR-2014-title40-vol24/xml/CFR-2014-title40-vol24-part180.xml.