Second phase of Roundup trial under way; Defense argues company has acted responsibly

By Rich Peters | Mar 22, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO – In Edwin Hardeman v. Monsanto, the opening phase came to a close on Tuesday afternoon with the federal jury ruling in favor of the plaintiff. And on Wednesday morning, testimony shifted away from the scientific evidence-based opening phase and began touching on the very topics that plaintiff’s attorney Aimee Wagstaff was reprimanded for early on in the trial – the question of whether or not Monsanto’s conduct surrounding glyphosate-based studies has been misleading.

In late February, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California sanctioned Wagstaff for “completely disregarding the limitations” that were set upon her in the trial’s opening phase.

Those limitations involved the discussion of how Monsanto’s scientific theories and conclusions are possibly skewed by manipulation, as phase one was limited to strict scientific evidence that could prove whether or not Roundup was a substantial factor in causing Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Defense attorney Brian Stekloff will now attempt to squash any allegations that the company attempted to influence regulators, scientists, public officials and the general public about the safety of Roundup and its other products over the past several decades.

Monsanto was acquired by Bayer last June in a deal worth $63 billion.

On Wednesday, Stekloff showed the jury a history of charts displaying tests and results from toxicologists, epidemiologists, scientists and organizations as he began making his client’s case. 

“The reading concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic,” he said of a 2004 World Health Organization study.

Stekloff’s slides also contained Environment Protection Agency tests and results between 1975 and 2012, the years of Hardeman’s alleged Roundup use. He informed the jury that it had every chance to pull Roundup from the shelves if it deemed it dangerous but never suspended or removed the product or even required a warning label.

Explaining that the EPA has looked at many angles and studies over the years, Stekloff said that in 1993, EPA scientists concluded: “The Agency has classified glyphosate as a Group E Carcinogen, signifying evidence of non-carcinogen in humans.”

According to the EPA, a Group E carcinogen is classified as “agents that show no evidence for carcinogenicity in at least two adequate animal tests in different species or in both adequate epidemiologic and animal studies.”

“This is not a popularity contest,” Stekloff said to the jury. “What the evidence will show is that Monsanto, consistent with the science, consistent with how the science was being viewed around the rest of the world, did act responsibly and should not be held liable.”

Chhabria has continued to keep a strict ruling on the evidence that can be used by the plaintiff’s attorneys, firmly prohibiting any documents after 2012.

Chhabria has also banned certain evidence of Monsanto’s own attempts to discredit other organization’s studies, most notably a 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer study, which deemed glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

The six members of the jury and both sides' lawyers were given Thursday off as Chhabria tended to other calendar items. One of those items was a motion in a separate lawsuit against Monsanto, as he is set to preside over at least 625 of the upward of 10,000 similar cases expected to take place around the country.

Hardeman’s case is the second high-profile battle against Monsanto. However, being the first of its kind at the federal level, the trial is considered to be a bellwether case for those that follow.

The trial will continue on Friday morning with phase two closing arguments expected some time in the middle of next week.

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