OAKLAND – Monsanto recently filed a post-trial motion asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to reverse May’s $2 billion jury verdict involving the herbicide Roundup in just one of many high-profile liability cases taking place throughout the state of California.
With groundbreaking damages being awarded to plaintiffs in cases where scientific evidence is wildly debated, an attorney for a national business association cautions that not all businesses can survive the liability claims that major corporations are currently facing.
“In general, we are very concerned about personal injury cases where we see the plaintiffs are exceedingly skilled in coming up with creative ways to push the envelope,” said National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Sacramento staff attorney Luke Wake.
“We are particularly concerned when we see them advocating for liability on very tenuous grounds and novel claims that don’t have a sound base.”
Monsanto, now owned by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, argues that misconduct by counsel for plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod influenced jurors in their decision to award the Bay Area couple $2 billion – something that could become a cause for concern for any sized business.
“The reality is even if you’ve done everything right, even if you’re not negligent in the way you’re conducting your businesses, when you’re hit with a lawsuit it’s exorbitantly expensive for a small business to defend…the cost of defending can sink a lot of businesses and even a settlement may be too costly - that’s the economics of litigation,” said Wake.
Following Monsanto’s motion to reverse Pilliod (and other verdicts), a Bayer spokesperson told The Northern California Record, “The verdicts do not reflect the evidence presented in the case. Instead, they reflect deep passion and prejudice borne from plaintiffs’ counsel’s improper argument rested on inflammatory, fabricated and irrelevant evidence that should have been excluded.
“The resulting trial focused not on ascertaining the truth regarding the state of the science, causation and compliance with legal duties, but instead on vilifying Monsanto in the abstract,” the spokesperson added.
Wake believes that California in particular has become a place where businesses of all sizes should be aware at all times of possible liability suits.
“California in general does seem to be a hotbed where businesses are particularly concerned about being dragged into court,” he said.