Part II – Who Is at Fault?
In our last post, we introduced you to the sad story about Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper in California who contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after significant exposure to Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup. You have probably used the product at one time or another to clear weeds from your lawn, sidewalk, patio, and driveway. Face it, spraying away invaders is much easier than digging them out.
Thousands of Roundup users have filed lawsuits alleging that they have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, b-cell lymphoma, leukemia, and other cancers. However, the attorneys in Mr. Johnson’s case were able to argue that Roundup was the cause of his incurable cancer successfully. Though the court awarded him $289 million in damages, he was unable to buy extra time and is expected to live a short time after the trial, though his family will be well provided for.
Monsanto, of course, continues to claim that their product is safe and will likely appeal in the hopes of getting the verdict tossed out or significantly reduced. Mr. Johnson’s case, however, might be the first crack in Monsanto’s legal wall.
Here’s what’s at issue. The many lawsuits filed against Monsanto alleging that the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, can cause this array of cancers.
Is Roundup the Cancer-Causing Culprit?
One of the reasons why there hasn’t been a judgment against Monsanto until recently is that there have been conflicting studies around the cancer risk from glyphosate exposure. Glyphosate is an herbicide used in Roundup. The US Environmental Agency (EPA) in recent years changes their stance on glyphosate, arguing that the compound isn’t carcinogenic and has low toxicity if used according to directions. The agency is conducting additional research with a decision pending until 2019.
There is an additional element to this story. If you recall the Russell Crowe movie, The Insider, his character, who was a high-level tobacco company executive, admitted that there was a coverup regarding cigarettes and lung cancer. These companies knew about this lethality link with their product all along.
The same has been happening with Monsanto. Despite their adamant opposition to the claims that connect glyphosate and cancer, recent lawsuits have uncovered that the company’s claims to safety may not be the real story.
Unsealed documents and emails suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten several scientific papers to help ensure that glyphosate was found to be safe to use as asserted in the EPA’s evaluation of the herbicide. Lawyers found that the company executives were working with a former EPA employee to refute claims that glyphosate was dangerous. Besides, Monsanto was made aware of the future evaluation of Roundup months ahead of their release, enabling the preparation of a public relations counterattack on the glyphosate/cancer link.
As for Mr. Johnson, the heart of his case was the classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IAR) of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Further, his attorneys maintained that not enough testing was done on Roundup’s formulation, which includes other chemicals along with glyphosate.
The Winning Argument for Dewayne Johnson
Though there was an avalanche of around 800 studies that upheld Monsanto’s assertion of their product’s safety, Mr. Johnson’s attorney Timothy Litzenburg won the suit based on the claim that the interaction between glyphosate and other ingredients in Roundup caused a “synergistic effect,” making the product more carcinogenic.
There is a question of whether or the United States will ban Roundup, given Monsanto’s relationship with the EPA. Meanwhile, many European countries have either restricted the use of Roundup or banned it totally, including the European Union, which is leaning towards a total ban.
California has not issued a ban but is the first state to issue a warning on the use of glyphosate. Many cities in the Golden State are banning glyphosate outright, allowing the limited use or stipulating the use of organic substitutes for weed management.
At Casey Law Offices, S.C., we focus exclusively on prosecuting injury claims to ensure negligent individuals and businesses are held responsible for irresponsible behavior resulting in injury, so those who are harmed are fairly compensated. We represent Wisconsinites who have suffered a variety of injuries, including those related to the national opioid crisis. Please call us at 414-272-3776.