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Monsanto (Bayer) Agrees to Pay $10.9 Billion in lawsuit because of common product cancer link

On June 24, 2020, Bayer AG publicly announced that the multinational company had reached settlement agreements in principle with five of the leading law firms in the Roundup cancer litigation. The agreements would resolve more than 100,000 Roundup lawsuits for roughly $11 billion.

The agreements were reached after more than a year of negotiations and three consecutive trial losses for Bayer. Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman served on the trial teams for all three of those trials and the firm’s vice president and a senior shareholder R. Brent Wisner served as co-lead counsel in two of the three cases, delivering the opening and closing statements. The trials resulted in a combined $2.424 billion in jury verdicts for the plaintiffs. Mr. Wisner was also an integral part of the settlement negotiations with Bayer.

Appellate Win for Plaintiff in Hardeman v. Monsanto

Mr. Hardeman’s case was the second Roundup cancer case to go to trial. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. Hardeman on May 14, 2021 when they denied Bayer / Monsanto’s appeal to overturn his verdict.

Statement from co-counsel representing Mr. Hardeman:

“Mr. Hardeman is very pleased that the Ninth Circuit affirmed the jury’s verdict. The Court ruled that ‘substantial evidence of Monsanto’s malice was presented to the jury, supporting punitive damages.” Internal emails showed that Monsanto knew of the risk of cancer and failed to warn consumers like Mr. Hardeman. Today is significant for consumers holding pesticide companies like Monsanto accountable for causing thousands of people cancer.”

Appellate Win for Plaintiff in Johnson v. Monsanto

Mr. Johnson’s case was the first Roundup cancer case to go to trial against Monsanto. On July 20, 2020, The California Courts of Appeal First Appellate District ruled in favor or Mr. Johnson when they denied Bayer / Monsanto’s appeal to overturn his verdict.

Statement by Co-Lead Trial Counsel and Baum Hedlund Senior Shareholder R. Brent Wisner:

“This is another major victory for Lee and his family. Nearly every argument by Monsanto was rejected, including Monsanto’s vaunted preemption defense, and the verdict was upheld. The reduction in damages is a function of a deep flaw in California tort law, not the merits of the case. Basically, California law does not allow a plaintiff to recover for a shortened life expectancy. This effectively rewards a defendant for killing a plaintiff, as opposed to just injuring him. It is madness. That Lee will not live an entire life with his wife and children should be compensable. Hopefully, when the issue gets before the California Supreme Court, we can change this irrational law.” -July 20, 2020

Does glyphosate cause cancer?

You may never have heard of a substance called glyphosate, but you may have some in your garage, basement or backyard shed. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides, or weed killers. Since its invention in 1974, the chemical has been used in hundreds of commercial and industrial products. And the development of more herbicide-tolerant crops has resulted in a huge increase in the use of glyphosate on the nation’s farms.

Glyphosate is among the most widely applied substances worldwide, a 2016 research paper suggests, “and interest will grow in quantifying ecological and human health impacts.”

Glyphosate has also been the subject of many studies—and legal challenges—regarding its potential to cause cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And while billions of dollars in damages have been doled out in court cases alleging links between glyphosate-based weed killers and cancer, the research is conflicting.

What do scientists say?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says there’s “no evidence that glyphosate causes cancer in humans.” The European Food Safety Authority agrees. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer, however, stated in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” CNN reported that hundreds of patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma started suing the manufacturers of glyphosate herbicides after WHO made its announcement.

In 2019, researchers at University of Washington concluded that using glyphosate increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41 percent. In the study, published in Mutation Research, researchers wrote that an analysis of human epidemiological studies “suggests a compelling link between exposures to [glyphosate-based herbicides] and increased risk” for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Herbicide manufacturers have stood by their products, even while still agreeing to settlements of current and future lawsuits. In June 2020, Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, settled the majority of current and possible future lawsuits for more than $10 million, CNN reported. In an announcement about the settlement, the chief executive officer of Bayer said that “the extensive body of science indicates that [glyphosate-based herbicide] Roundup® does not cause cancer, and therefore, is not responsible for the illnesses alleged in this litigation. We stand strongly behind our glyphosate-based herbicides, which are among the most rigorously studied products of their kind, and four decades of science support their safety and that they are not carcinogenic.”

In May 2021, however, a federal judge in San Francisco rejected a $2 billion plan to settle future claims. And thousands of cancer claims remain unresolved.

What causes lymphoma? 

One of the nation’s most common cancers, non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for 4 percent of all cancers and more than 81,500 new diagnoses each year. 

According to the American Cancer Society, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is linked to a variety of risk factors. Still, the cause of most lymphomas is unknown.

Some risk factors associated with lymphomas include:

Age: While most cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma occur in people 60 and older, some types of lymphomas are more common in younger people.

Gender: Cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are more likely among men than in women. That said, some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are more common among women, but the reasons for this are unknown. 

Race, ethnicity and country of residence: Whites are more likely than blacks and Asian Americans to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s also more common in developed countries such as the United States and in Europe.

Family history: If a patient has a first-degree relative—a parent, child or sibling—with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, they’re at higher risk.

Exposure to particular chemicals and drugs: Researchers continue to study possible links between multiple chemical substances and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Some additional risk factors include radiation exposure (which may result from radiation therapy used as cancer treatment) and having a weakened immune system (which can occur after an organ transplant, with HIV and in some genetic syndromes). Patients with autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease or lupus, may also be at greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

What can you do? 

Experts at North Carolina State Universitysuggest the following alternatives for weed removal: 

Manual removal: While it’s labor-intensive and potentially expensive, pulling weeds by hand approximately every two weeks is a safer alternative to using herbicides. Remove weeds early, before they establish a strong root system. 

Flame weeding: Flame weeders, which use heat to kill seedling broadleaf weeds, is better suited for cracks in driveways, between pavers or in gravel mulch. Only a brief exposure to the flame is required to heat the water inside the plant. After exposure to the heat, the leaf tissues tend to quickly collapse. 

Steam or hot-foam weeding: This is a good alternative when flammable materials are present. Using pressurized steam or hot water and a foaming agent, these machines use approximately 60 gallons of water per hour. Use caution with this method because the steam or foam can cause severe burns.

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