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Monsanto In and Out of Roundup’s Weeds

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Monsanto was out of the weeds in September’s Missouri Roundup trial and back in a month later, breaking its winning streak. Is the jury still out regarding glyphosate as a possible carcinogen?

St Louis, MOMonsanto had another Roundup lawsuit win on September 28 after two weeks of trial. However, it was back in the weeds October 20th after a Missouri jury awarded $1.25 million to a plaintiff, making it a first plaintiff win in Missouri and the first time outside of California verdicts of $80 million, $289 million and $2 billion in favor of plaintiffs. Several Roundup trials have taken place over the past year in St. Louis with all plaintiffs contending that exposure to the chemical glyphosate in Roundup gave them non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and that the agrochemical giant failed to warn the public of its dangers. It appears that the jury is still out on whether glyphosate is a carcinogen.

Roundup Plaintiff Win

Plaintiff John Durnell had used Roundup since 1996 while maintaining his neighborhood grounds for the Soulard Restoration Project. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma several years later after discovering a painful knot. Durnell’s attorney says he is now in remission from the disease.

Courtroom View Network (CVN) recorded the full trial before Judge Timothy Boyer in the City of St. Louis. Durnell’s attorney told CVN that $1.25 million is smaller than awards in other Roundup trials but it came in the context of a no settlement offer from Monsanto at all leading up to and during trial. He also said that the verdict carries additional significance because it was the first time jurors heard arguments involving supposed carcinogens in Roundup besides glyphosate. Further, he attributed the verdict to cross examinations of Monsanto’s top toxicologist and of the head of the Global Lawn & Garden market, saying that, “Monsanto cannot defend their own documents in a live witness setting.”

Bayer told Reuters that it plans to appeal the ruling. The case is captioned John L. Durnell, et al. v. Monsanto Company, et al., case number 1922-CC00221 in Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit in St. Louis.

Monsanto Win

Plaintiff Mark McCostlin alleged he developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2017 from spraying Roundup in his yard, when he was 58 years old. McCostlin’s trial, which began September 13, was held in conservative Clayton, Missouri in St. Louis County, seen as less plaintiff-friendly than neighboring City of St. Louis where Durnell’s trial was held. Missouri state court judge Brian May granted a directed verdict in favor of Monsanto on September 28, about a week before closing arguments. (A directed verdict is a court’s denial of the need for the case to go to the jury.) 

McCostlin’s attorney told CVN that, “It’s unfortunate that pretrial rulings prevented jurors in this case from seeing and hearing all of the evidence... We are committed to this cause and will continue the fight on behalf of the many cancer victims who deserve justice.”
The St. Louis Record explained that Monsanto accused the plaintiff of failing to present evidence from which a reasonable jury could determine that McCostlin’s Roundup use more likely than not was a “but for” cause of McCostlin’s lymphoma. “Plaintiffs only specific causation expert, Dr. Boyd, testified to the jury only that McCostlin’s Roundup use may have “contributed to the risk” of McCostlin developing NHL [non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma],” wrote Monsanto’s attorney. “McCostlin’s injury (NHL) and its claimed cause (Roundup) were reasonably ascertainable by him before August 14, 2017. Because he did not sue within two years of that date, his claims are time-barred."

The case is Barbara Allegrezza, et al. v. Monsanto Company, case number 19SL-CC03421 in Missouri’s 21st Judicial Circuit. McCostlin was the plaintiff.

Jury Still Out?

The two verdicts above seem to indicate that the jury is still out whether glyphosate is a cancer-causing agent. While the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 identified glyphosate as a possible carcinogen, a WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) joint committee on pesticides announced in 2016 that glyphosate did not pose a significant health risk to humans. Findings from the Environmental Protection Agency state that “glyphosate is unlikely to be a human carcinogen.”

Bayer settled most Roundup claims against it in 2020 for up to $10.9 billion, but still faces close to 40,000 Roundup-related cases. In other Round-up trials, closing arguments are underway in San Diego and in Philadelphia. Additional trials are also scheduled for next month in Missouri and California.


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