Herbicide Cancer Lawsuits Consolidated in Northern California

This month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated 37 lawsuits alleging exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer causes cancer. The lawsuits were consolidated in Northern California, where two of the initial lawsuits alleging herbicide caused cancer were filed.The active ingredient in Roundup–glyphosate–has become the most heavily used agricultural chemical in world history. A study published this winter revealed that Americans have applied 1.8 million tons of glyphosate since it was first introduced into the market in 1974. That’s equivalent to the weight of water filling nearly 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools and spraying the herbicide on every cultivated acre of land on the planet. Its mass spraying has led to the explosion of resistant weeds, which have evolved to survive despite being sprayed.

Research indicates that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it interferes with the proper functioning and production of hormones in human cell lines. Studies have linked glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma, colon cancer, kidney cancer, bone cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer. Last year, the World Health Organization deemed the chemical to be a “probable human carcinogen.” The FDA, however, does not list the chemical as a human carcinogen. There remains an active debate about the chemical in the scientific community.

Monsanto says to the contrary that glyphosate is not harmful to humans. A company spokesperson said:  “In evaluations spanning four decades, the overwhelming conclusion of experts worldwide has been that glyphosate, when used according to label directions, does not present an unreasonable risk of adverse effects to humans, wildlife or the environment.”

Various lawsuits claim that Monsanto failed to warn consumers and regulators that exposure to glyphosate can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Complainants in 21 districts urged the JPML to consolidate the cases in either California, Hawaii, Illinois, or Louisiana. This month, the panel decided to consolidate in the Northern District of California because it is convenient for all parties. The case will appear before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria.

Teri McCall, a complainant from Cambria, California, lost her husband to non-Hodgkin lymphoma last year. Jack McCall used Roundup on the couple’s 20-acre farm for nearly three decades. In September 2015, he visited the hospital after noticing swollen lymph nodes on his neck. That day, he learned that he had anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

After Jack was diagnosed with cancer, he learned about the studies linking Roundup and lymphoma and immediately stopped using the herbicide on his farm. Unfortunately, it was too late. That December, McCall passed away after suffering a severe stroke related to complications with his cancer treatment.

Soon after Jack’s passing, Teri filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Monsanto, alleging the company knew for decades that the herbicide was carcinogenic but failed to warn consumers about the health dangers. Instead of informing the public, her complaint alleged, Monsanto continued to insist Roundup was harmless, at one point declaring it “safer than table salt.” Even today, Monsanto continues to deny the research linking the herbicide to cancer and markets Roundup as safe and effective.

Monsanto fought to avoid consolidation, arguing that individualized facts pertaining to each case carried more weight than common factual issues. The JPML disagreed, finding that the individualized factual issues were not sufficient to prevail over the efficiency gained by consolidating the cases. All the complaints entailed a common query, the JPML concluded:  whether glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in persons exposed to it while using Roundup. The JPML noted that individual differences regarding causation and damages were insufficient to avoid consolidation.

A Monsanto spokesperson said in a statement that consolidation merely streamlines the process of pre-trial discovery, and the cases will ultimately be tried individually in the federal jurisdictions in which they were filed. He concluded that the cases will fail on the merits because “the very long and well-established history of glyphosate proves it is safe.”

In February 2016, the FDA said it would pay $5 million to several independent laboratories to test foods for glyphosate residues. The preliminary test results were never released by the FDA, but a consumer advocacy group recently got some of the results with a court order. The results showed showed high levels of glyphosate and Monsanto on common American foods.

The product liability lawyers at the Neumann Law Group represent victims of accidents throughout the Los Angeles area. Call us at (213) 227-0001 for a free consultation.

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