Last week saw several important developments in the fight for justice from Monsanto. On Wednesday, the jury in the Hardeman case returned an $80 million verdict in the first federal bellwether case. This was significant in several respects.
- First, this was the first case in the national multi-district litigation (MDL) in federal court to make it way to trial. Dewayne “Lee” Johnson v. Monsanto resulted in a $289.2 million verdict for Timothy Litzenburg’s client (later reduced by the judge to $78 million), but that was in California state court. More than 750 more cases are pending in the US District Court in San Francisco on Judge Chhabria’s MDL docket. Stevick v. Monsanto and Gebeyehou v. Monsanto are the second and third bellwether cases picked to go to trial in the MDL.
- Second, Mr. Hardeman was a residential user of Roundup while Lee Johnson, the plaintiff in the first Roundup trial, had used the herbicide in his job. The jury in the Johnson case sent a strong and clear message that they believed occupational use of Roundup can and does cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury in Hardeman likewise confirmed that home use of Roundup can result in enough exposure to the carcinogenic chemical to result in cancer.
- Third, the bifurcation of the Hardeman case forced the plaintiff to first establish that Roundup caused his cancer before the jury was permitted to hear any of Monsanto’s efforts to steer the public perception of the dangerous product through ghost-writing and influencing scientific documents. This unusual procedural setup was widely thought to be a playing field that was harshly slanted in favor of Monsanto. It put the jury to the difficult task of sorting through two weeks of complicated science and medicine to determine in somewhat of a vacuum whether a sufficient link existed between Roundup and Mr. Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury said yes, that connection had been proven to them. To date, none of the state court trials are slated to be conducted in this bifurcated fashion.
Following the victory on Wednesday, the Pilliod v. Monsanto trial got underway with opening statements Thursday across the bay in Alameda County Superior Court. It is the first case in the consolidated California state court Roundup litigation to go to trial. While Mr. Litzenburg also represented his client, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson in California state court, that case was not part of the JCCP consolidated California litigation.