Navigating the Complex Terrain of Roundup Litigation
The protracted litigation surrounding Roundup, the widely used herbicide, is entering a pivotal phase as Monsanto/Bayer prepares for a series of jury trials. The imminent trials represent a crucial juncture, embodying both the possibility of significant rewards for plaintiffs and the inherent risks of the litigation process.
In the forthcoming months, Monsanto is scheduled to confront a sequence of jury trials in the plaintiff-oriented Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, with the first trial commencing on October 5, 2023. Additional trials will unfold into 2024 in Cobb County, Georgia, where Monsanto is yet to face litigation. Concurrently, a trial is underway in St. Louis County, Missouri, subsequent to a jurisdictional decision by the Missouri Supreme Court transferring certain lawsuits from St. Louis City court to the County. Another trial is also scheduled to take place in San Diego later in September.
These multiple trials could influence Bayer to consider settling claims on a broader scale, especially if plaintiff verdicts induce market pressures. Contrarily, Monsanto has gained some legal traction from a recent ruling by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which remanded a key preemption question in the Carson v. Monsanto appeal.
Monsanto’s defense hinges on the claim that federal law, through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) stance that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic, preempts state law claims of failure to warn about the risks of Roundup. This argument, however, has been consistently rejected by lower and appellate courts, including the Ninth Circuit in the Hardeman case, and the United States Supreme Court has declined to review the appeal.
The complexity of the legal strategy extends to the Eleventh Circuit, where an en banc panel recently decided not to fully overturn a three-judge panel’s decision but instead remanded the case for further consideration. Monsanto’s legal maneuvers continue as it seeks to argue its position before the Eleventh Circuit, aiming for a favorable decision that might provoke a circuit split, thereby increasing the likelihood of Supreme Court consideration.
In the interim, Monsanto/Bayer faces the daunting reality of over 45,000 pending claims. Substantial verdicts in the upcoming trials across multiple jurisdictions could further compel the company to settle in order to mitigate litigation risk and alleviate shareholder concerns.
Despite the potentially heightened risks for Roundup victims presented by the appellate proceedings, the prospects of the forthcoming jury trials in favorable courts seem to offer a counterbalance of potential rewards.
- 10.6.23 Update: The landscape of the Roundup litigation was altered by a recent directed verdict in Monsanto’s favor in a St. Louis County trial. However, the onset of jury selection in several trials, including those in Philadelphia and San Diego, signals a busy period for Monsanto, potentially impacting its approach to settlements.
- 10.20.23 Update: A plaintiff victory in St. Louis has disrupted Monsanto’s succession of trial wins. While punitive damages were not awarded, this outcome represents a significant shift, ending Monsanto’s winning streak.
- 10.25.23 Update: Further details on the St. Louis victory highlight the implications of the Missouri jury’s decision, including Monsanto’s lack of settlement offers and the effective presentation of new arguments regarding Roundup’s carcinogenic constituents. As the Philadelphia and San Diego trials proceed, additional cases loom on the horizon, setting the stage for further developments.
In conclusion, Monsanto/Bayer remains in a legal quandary as it navigates an array of jury trials and complex appeals. The outcome of these processes will significantly influence the legal landscape concerning Roundup litigation and the broader implications for corporate liability and consumer safety.