1st Australian Product Liability Claim Filed in Australian Court, Linking Herbicide Use and Cancer

In edition 270 of BC Disease News (here), we reported that several local authorities across the UK, including Hampshire, Wirral and Norwich County Councils, were re-evaluating public use of glyphosate herbicide. In fact, Richmond Borough Council has already begun trialling a non-chemical-based alternative approach.

This reaction was prompted by the $80 million jury verdict, which saw Edwin Hardeman compensated for developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma caused by cumulative exposure to glyphosate chemical in Monsanto-produced Roundup weedkiller (Monsanto is now owned by German pharmaceutical giant, Bayer AG).

More recently, we reported (here) on the 3rd and latest Californian Court ruling, in which Mr and Mrs Alva Pilliod were awarded $2 billion in damages.

In the wake of the May verdict, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a number of local authorities in Sydney, Australia, are reviewing Roundup use, while the Government in the Australian state of Victoria has launched its own review of glyphosate ‘as a matter of precaution’. The Victorian Government review will examine how glyphosate is ‘stored and handled’ and consider whether risks ‘are being controlled so far as reasonably practicable’.

However, the National Farmers’ Federation has discouraged a glyphosate ban. President, Fiona Simson forewarned that such a scenario would have a ‘monumental’ impact on the farming industry:

‘Currently, there is no product approved for use in Australia that is as safe or as effective as glyphosate for weed control. The productivity of, especially grain growers but also graziers, would decline dramatically, with a key tool in the weed management tool box gone’.

Joanna Immig, Co-ordinator of Australia’s National Toxics Network, has warned that glyphosate is the active ingredient in approximately 600 Australian products, though the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (AVPMA) ‘remain satisfied that APVMA-approved products containing glyphosate can continue to be used safely according to label directions’, in line with the present stance of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). [i]

Contemporaneously, multiple Australian law firms are considering filing product liability lawsuits against Bayer, according to The Guardian Australia.[ii]

Maurice Blackburn has fielded ‘hundreds of inquiries’ since late 2018, which are now ‘in the stage of getting expert evidence to help support individual actions’.

When asked who may be affected, Jonathan Walsh, a Principal at Maurice Blackburn, touted glyphosate-injury as a risk for both employees and ordinary members of the general public:

‘It’s people from all walks of life, mums and dads using the product every weekend doing the garden, to more heavy users like those involved in vegetation management in particular and also people from the farming community where they use a lot of this product day in and day out’.

Although Maurice Blackburn is not currently pursuing a class action lawsuit, LHD Lawyers is.

Currently, LHD is circulating a class action investigation statement, which reads:

‘Monsanto (now Bayer), the creator of Roundup, is facing claims the company failed to warn users that extended exposure to the weedkiller has been linked to certain forms of cancer.

As a result, thousands of lawsuits have been filed by cancer victims against Monsanto in the US, alleging that the weedkiller causes cancer. Juries in two recent cases have reviewed the Roundup cancer evidence, found Monsanto liable and ordered the company to pay millions of dollars in damages to victims.

LHD Lawyers are encouraging those affected by Monsanto’s Roundup to register their interest for a case evaluation. You may have a right to demand compensation from Monsanto for physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, physical impairment, grief, anxiety, and emotional distress’.

On Monday, Carbone Lawyers filed legal proceedings at the Supreme Court in the first Australian case to associate Roundup use with non-Hodgkin lymphoma onset.[iii]

Michael Ogalirolo, aged 54, was diagnosed with the condition in 2011, after 18 years (three occasions per week) of Roundup exposure, in the course of his employment as a gardener. He is currently in remission.

Managing Partner of Carbone, Tony Carbone, predicts that this case ‘has the potential to be substantially bigger than previous asbestos litigation’ and submits that:

‘It is clear the manufacturer of Roundup knew the product was a risk to people's health and clearly failed to display safety warnings on their product’.

The Supreme Court writ states that:

‘The defendant knew or ought to have known that the use of Roundup products were dangerous for the plaintiff ... in particular causing DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, cancer, kidney disease, infertility and nerve damage among other devastating illnesses. 

As such, Roundup products are dangerous to human health and unfit to be marketed and sold in commerce, particularly without proper warnings and directions," the writ by Carbone Lawyers claims’.

 

[i] Carrie Fellner and Peter Hannam, ‘Sydney councils move to ban Roundup weedkiller over cancer fears’ (2 June 2019 The Sydney Morning Herald) <https://www.smh.com.au/national/sydney-councils-move-to-ban-roundup-weedkiller-over-cancer-fears-20190524-p51quo.html> accessed 3 June 2019.

[ii] Michael McGowan, ‘Roundup cancer link: Australian firms consider lawsuits over exposure to weedkiller’ (2 June 2019 The Guardian) <https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/02/roundup-cancer-link-australian-firms-consider-lawsuits-over-exposure-to-weedkiller> accessed 3 June 2019.

[iii] Cameron Houston and Chris Vedelago, ‘First cancer lawsuit over weedkiller Roundup filed in Australia’ (3 Jun 2019 The Sydney Morning Herald) <https://www.smh.com.au/national/first-cancer-lawsuit-over-weedkiller-roundup-filed-in-australia-20190603-p51u1a.html> accessed 3 June 2019.