In last week’s BC Disease News feature article (here), we updated our readers on ongoing US product liability group litigation, involving farmers, gardeners, government employees, landscapers and others.
Specifically, we reported on the case of Edwin Hardeman, who was the 2nd person of 11,200 to argue, in a US court, that use of glyphosate-containing Roundup herbicide, manufactured by agrochemical producer, Monsanto, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
Glyphosate is an active ingredient in more than 750 US products.
In the course of the month-long trial of liability, which started on 25 February 2019, Mr. Hardeman’s lawyers submitted that he had used Roundup on 300 separate occasions spread over 26 years, spraying more than 6,000 gallons during that period.[i]
Last week, closing arguments were made on the scientific link between glyphosate chemical and the lymphatic cancer type, in the 1st phase of the bifurcated trial.[ii]
District Judge Vince Chhabria asked the jury of 6 (formerly 9) to determine whether Roundup was a ‘substantial factor’ in causing Mr. Hardeman’s cancer.
Earlier this week, the San Franciscan jury found, in a unanimous verdict, that glyphosate use was a ‘substantial factor’.[iii]
In the wake of this decision, Bayer’s shares plummeted by more than 15% (from €69.96) on market opening in Frankfurt to reach a low of €60.49, as can be seen in Bayer AG’s stock value chart, below. Pharmaceutical giant, Bayer, took over Monsanto in June 2018 in a multi-billion dollar deal and, in doing so, also inherited the company’s liabilities.
According to Baader Bank AG Analyst, Markus Mayer, a further decline below the €60 mark would leave the company vulnerable to a potential takeover or breakup. Billionaire shareholder, Paul Singer, has invested heavily in Bayer and is evaluating a proposal to break Bayer up into separate pharmaceutical and crop chemical companies.[iv]
On Wednesday, the trial proceeded to a 2nd stage, in which Mr. Hardeman’s lawyers have begun presenting evidence on the company’s alleged attempts to manipulate regulators, scientists, public officials and the general public about the historic safety concerns of Monsanto products.
Nevertheless, Bayer is ‘confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer’.
We will keep a watchful eye on Mr. Hardeman’s case as the 2nd phase of trial continues.
In the interim, on 28 March, a new trial of liability will commence in Oakland, California, where Alberta and Alva Pilliod will build their case against Monsanto. [v]
The couple pleads that they regularly sprayed Roundup at their home from 1975 until 2011. In June 2011 and March 2015, respectively, Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod were diagnosed with NHL.
Mr. Pilliod has diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common NHL-subtype that accounts for 25-35% of all NHL cases,[vi] while his wife has primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL), a rare subtype of DLBCL that accounts for 2-3% of all NHL cases.[vii]
[i] Rich Peters, ‘Monsanto Roundup trial in jury’s hands after phase one closing arguments are made’ (13 March 2019 Northern California Record) <https://norcalrecord.com/stories/512291561-monsanto-roundup-trial-in-jury-s-hands-after-phase-one-closing-arguments-are-made> accessed 18 March 2019.
[ii] Jim Christie, ‘Bayer Roundup cancer trial goes to jury after closing arguments’ (12 March 2019 Reuters) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bayer-glyphosate-lawsuit/bayer-roundup-cancer-trial-goes-to-jury-after-closing-arguments-idUSKBN1QT31G> accessed 18 March 2019.
[iv] Joel Rosenblatt and Tim Loh, ‘Bayer Loses First Phase of Roundup Trial, Now Will Face Liability’ (19 March 2019 Bloomberg) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-19/bayer-loses-first-phase-of-roundup-trial-now-to-face-liability> accessed 20 March 2019.
[v] Michael Stiles, ‘Preview of Pilliods v. MonsantoTrial: Late March 2019’ (15 March 2019 Medium) <https://medium.com/@michaelpacificosur/preview-of-pilliods-v-roundup-trial-late-march-2019-5d21eb291d0d> accessed 20 March 2019.
[vi] Cultrera JL and Dalia SM, Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma: Current Strategies and Future Directions Cancer Control (2012) 19(3):204-13 <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22710896> accessed 20 March 2019.
[vii] Fraser E, Gruenberg K and Rubenstein JL, New approaches in primary central nervous system lymphoma. Chin Clin Oncol. (2015) 4(1):11 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4942281/> accessed 20 March 2019.