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Monsanto Ordered to Pay Millions to Cancer Victims; Michigan Residents Join Growing List of Plaintiffs

Thousands of individuals have filed suit against the Monsanto Company, the manufacturer of the popular weed killer Roundup, alleging that the active ingredient in Roundup causes cancer and that Monsanto has long known about, and covered up, that fact. Two such cases have now gone to trial, and both resulted in substantial verdicts for the plaintiffs, who regularly used Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

First, in August 2018, a California state court jury returned a verdict against Monsanto in the amount of $289 million, which was later reduced to $78 million. The verdict was based on the jury's finding that the plaintiff's use of Roundup in connection with his job as a groundskeeper for a local school district had substantially contributed to his development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Then, on March 29, 2019, a jury in California federal court handed down the second verdict against Monsanto. Monsanto was ordered to pay nearly $80 million in damages to the plaintiff, who used Roundup to treat weeds on his multi-acre property for over 20 years. The jury found that Monsanto failed to warn that Roundup could cause cancer, despite years of published scientific data showing the link between Roundup and cancer. The jury also found that Roundup was a "substantial factor" in the plaintiff developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Intending to send Monsanto a message, $75 million of the jury's $80 million verdict took the form of punitive damages – damages exceeding direct compensation for a plaintiff's injuries and intended to punish a defendant. 

Multi-District Litigation

In addition to the two cases that have now been tried, there are as many as 1,600 similar cancer cases against Monsanto waiting to be heard in Northern California District's federal court. Thousands of other cases are pending in state courts around the country. The federal cases are part of a "multi-district litigation," which is a federal case management procedure that allows plaintiffs around the country with similar claims against Monsanto to have all of their claims consolidated in a single court for case management purposes. Due to the recent jury verdicts against Monsanto, Monsanto will face increasing pressure to settle the cases currently pending in the multi-district litigation. In fact, the federal judge recently ordered the MDL parties to enter into mediation in an attempt to resolve all of the pending cases. This order from the judge highlights the importance of potential plaintiffs filing their claims as soon as possible.

© 2020 Varnum LLP


About this Author

Adam Brody, Partner, Varnum

Adam is a partner in the Litigation Practice Team concentrating on complex civil litigation in both state and federal courts. He has extensive first-chair experience, including trial, appellate, and alternative dispute resolution work. While Adam has experience in a broad range of matters, including intellectual property litigation, the defense of wrongful death claims, property tax litigation, and cases involving covenants not to compete, his work is primarily focused on commercial contract...

Brion Doyle, Litigation attorney, Varnum

Brion is a member of the Litigation Practice Team. He is experienced in commercial and environmental litigation in state and federal court. Brion has represented clients in a wide range of commercial and tort cases including class action defense, products liability defense, personal injury defense, commercial contract disputes, covenants not to compete, embezzlement and bank fraud actions, minority shareholder disputes, and in collection and creditors’ rights litigation. He has handled all forms of alternative dispute resolution, including facilitative mediation, arbitration and case evaluation under the Michigan Court Rules.

Brion is also a member of Varnum’s E-Discovery Task Force, where he advises clients on matters relating to the preservation and production of electronically-stored information, as well as best practices for companies in retaining data.