A trial of tens of thousands of claims against Roundup maker Monsanto was postponed just before it was set to start in a California court Friday morning to accommodate ongoing settlement talks.
Contra Costa Country Superior Court Judge Barry P. Goode excused the 16 empaneled jurors, who had gone through a lengthy and “extraordinary jury-selection process” to hear the latest round of claims brought by plaintiffs who allege Monsanto’s flagship herbicide gave them cancer.
The judge told jurors Friday that counsel for Monsanto and plaintiff Kathleen Caballero had agreed that postponing the trial would help settlement talks. Monsanto said in a statement that the delay should “provide room for the parties to continue the mediation process in good faith under the auspices of Ken Feinberg, and avoid the distractions that can arise from trials.”
Ms. Caballero filed her complaint against Monsanto in August. According to Law 360, she was granted trial preference in the sprawling multidistrict litigation (MDL) because of her age and health condition. Like most of her fellow plaintiffs, she suffers from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of blood cancer that she blames on exposure to Roundup. Ms. Caballero claims that Monsanto kept consumers in the dark about the risks of Roundup exposure, which it allegedly knew about for years.
Days before the California trial was put on hold, another case against Monsanto was postponed in the company’s hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. That case, set to begin on Jan. 24 in St. Louis City Circuit Court, was delayed so that mediation talks could continue.
According to USRTK, “The St. Louis trial is particularly problematic for Monsanto because it involves four plaintiffs, including one woman whose husband died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and because the judge has ruled that the trial can be broadcast over the Courtroom View Network and through feeds to television and radio stations. Lawyers for Monsanto’s German owner Bayer AG argued against broadcasting the trial, saying the publicity endangers its executives and witnesses.”
The trial delays come in the wake of three California cases against Monsanto, all of which ended with giant jury verdicts for the plaintiffs. Monsanto is challenging those verdicts in California appellate courts and the Ninth Circuit.
According to Law 360, Judge Goode made dozens of pre-trial rulings in Ms. Caballero’s case, some of which could give Monsanto some more leverage at trial and in mediation talks. One of those rulings allows Monsanto to mention a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) interim report that says the active ingredient in Roundup – glyphosate – is likely not a human carcinogen.
Law 360 notes that the same EPA report was excluded by the judge overseeing one of the California trials that resulted in a $2.06 billion verdict for the plaintiffs. That report amounted to “comments on comments” and didn’t draw any useful conclusions, the judge in that case ruled.
The judge also restricted the testimony from expert witnesses for both parties, allowed certain evidence about Roundup regulation in other countries, and barred plaintiffs’ lawyers from mentioning Bayer’s $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto in 2018.
Additional source: Law.com
Beasley Allen lawyers are currently representing clients who have been exposed to Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For more information, contact a member of our Roundup Litigation Team: John Tomlinson (who heads up the team), Michael Dunphy, Danielle Ingram or Rhon Jones, all lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section.