As reported by Reuters on January 4, 2019, a federal judge overseeing lawsuits alleging Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer causes cancer declined to reconsider a ruling that limits evidence the plaintiffs in the litigation consider crucial to their cases. During a hearing in federal court in San Francisco, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria denied a plaintiff lawyer’s request to review the decision, saying trials before him should focus on scientific evidence.
On January 3, 2019, Judge Chhabria granted Bayer unit Monsanto’s request to split an upcoming trial into two phases. The order initially bars lawyers for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman from introducing evidence that the company allegedly attempted to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion. That trial is scheduled to begin on February 25, 2019, along with two other bellwether trials intended to help determine the range of damages and define settlement options for the rest of the 620 Roundup cases pending before the Judge.
The plaintiff’s lawyer argued during a hearing on January 4, 2019 that the Judge’s ruling is “unfair” as the plaintiffs’ scientific evidence allegedly showing glyphosate causes cancer is inextricably linked to Monsanto’s alleged wrongful conduct: “The science doesn’t exist in some isolated, untouched world,” adding that evidence of Monsanto’s alleged attempts to manipulate, misrepresent and intimidate scientists has to be included.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers contend that such evidence, including internal Monsanto documents, showed the company’s misconduct and were critical to a California state court jury’s August 2018 decision to award $289 million in a similar case. That award was subsequently reduced to $78 million and was then appealed.
Judge Chhabria advised the plaintiffs’ lawyers that he did not want plaintiffs to “focus on misrepresenting statements” by Monsanto employees: “My point is you’re mischaracterizing what Monsanto people have said, you’re putting your own spin on (it).”
Bayer denies that glyphosate causes cancer, contending that decades of independent studies have shown Roundup, the world’s most widely used weed killer, to be safe for human use. However, Bayer faces more than 9,300 U.S. lawsuits over Roundup’s safety in state and federal courts across the United States.
Pursuant to Judge Chhabria’s order, evidence of Monsanto’s alleged misconduct would be allowed only if glyphosate was found to have caused Hardeman’s cancer and the trial proceeded to a second phase to determine Bayer’s liability.
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