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Bayer takes another court win; jury in Roundup trial says no connection between weed killer and man's cancer
This one was an easy call
A Kansas City, Mo., jury on Thursday dismissed claims by a man who blamed his cancer on exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, agreeing with the company that the weed killer was not the source of the disease.
The conclusion of the month-long trial gives Monsanto owner Bayer three courtroom wins in a row and brings the nationwide litigation battle to a 3-to-3 tie: the first three trial wins went to the plaintiffs’ side and the last three to the defense.
“The jury’s verdict in favor of the company brings this trial to a successful conclusion and is consistent with the evidence in this case that Roundup does not cause cancer…” Bayer said in a statement. (Bayer bought Monsanto in 2018.)
The jury finding in favor of the company is “consistent with the assessments of expert regulators worldwide as well as the overwhelming evidence from four decades of scientific studies concluding that Roundup can be used safely and is not carcinogenic,” the company said in the statement.
Lawyers representing plaintiff Allan Shelton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shelton was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in May 2016, a little more than a year after international cancer scientists affiliated with the World Health Organization classified the active ingredient in Roundup, a chemical called glyphosate, as a probable human carcinogen.
A personal observation
I’ve attended some parts of all three of the first three trials and part of this last one, monitoring the other two as best I could remotely during Covid-19, and my observation is this: Lawyering matters.
The legal team that tried the first three cases, the cases that led Bayer to agree to the staggering $11 billion settlement in 2020, knew the evidence inside and out. They could recite nearly word for word the emails and other communications from internal Monsanto documents that detailed secret ghostwriting plans to manipulate the scientific literature surrounding glyphosate safety.
They shared with juries how Monsanto influenced and shaped regulatory findings on glyphosate, how the company paid academics and funded front groups to promote the safety of Monsanto herbicides without disclosing the funding ties, and they made mincemeat out of experts put forth by Monsanto’s attorneys to deny years of independent science showing a connection between the company’s herbicides and cancer.
I wrote a book about the first trial, because the dramatic twists and turns demanded a full accounting.
Conversely, Monsanto’s attorneys in those first three trials were not nearly as adept as those brought in by Bayer for the more recent courtroom brawling. Several of the lawyers that have defended Bayer/Monsanto cut their teeth on defending the tobacco industry and are accomplished at defending some of the world’s biggest corporate players.
At the Shelton trial, leading the defense of Bayer/Monsanto was Hildy Sastre, recognized as 2019’s “Most Effective Attorney” in the area of complex litigation by The Daily Business Review. In addition to her work defending cigarette manufacturers, Sastre has successfully won cases for drug and medical device companies.
Ironically, Monsanto’s defense made much of the fact that Shelton was a smoker - who got cancer.
So, here we sit at a 3-to-3 tie, with Bayer poised for the winning run, if only it and its Big Ag brethren can convince the U.S. Supreme Court to give it the final victory it needs to derail the Roundup litigation freight train for good.