Northern California Record

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Four amicus briefs filed in case appeal of bellwether Roundup trial; Farmers question - 'what is the law?'

State Court

By Rich Peters | Sep 6, 2019


SAN FRANCISCO – Four amicus briefs have been filed in the California Court of Appeals in the case of Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto raising "concerns about the methods used to determine medical causation and the award of punitive damages in the Johnson case, as well as the reliance of businesses and consumers on regulatory approvals,” said a media representative for Bayer.

One brief was filed jointly by the California Medical Association (CMA), California Dental Association (CDA) and California Hospital Association (CHA), who combined represent a substantial portion of the state’s health care providers. Another brief was filed by Genentech Inc., a California-based leader in biotechnology. Both the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), the largest farm organization in the state, and the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC) filed separate briefs as well.

Johnson, a Vallejo school groundskeeper, was awarded $289 million by a San Francisco Superior Court jury in August of last year, concluding that Roundup was a substantial factor in causing his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). That number was later reduced to $78.5 million in damages, but Bayer, which purchased Monsanto last year, has appealed the verdict and is seeking to reverse the judgment entirely.

“Farmers and ranchers should be allowed to rely upon and use federal and state approved crop protection tools and not be subject to uncertainty and potential liability due to conflicting scientific reports put forth by non-regulatory bodies,” stated CFBF in its filed brief. “... Farmers and ranchers and applicators of pesticides apply crop protection tools in accordance with the pesticide’s legally approved label. However, with this decision, farmers and ranchers fear that they can no longer rely upon a legally approved pesticide label to be the law of the land, thus calling into question—what is the law?”

Genentech Inc.argued against juries awarding punitive damages against companies whose regulated products have been tested and found to be safe.

“Allowing juries to award punitive damages for products that have been specifically examined and approved by regulatory agencies creates a large risk of confusion for life-science-based companies and may deter the progress of science," Genentech's brief states. "If such punitive damages awards are allowed, companies face the risk of massive punitive damages awards unless they routinely second guess the safety decisions of regulators. Accordingly, manufacturers who comply with regulatory standards without any misrepresentation or concealment of material fact, after subjecting themselves to the detailed scrutiny of a regulatory agency, should not be liable for punitive damages.”

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a statement that there are “no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label” and that “glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”

However, Bayer/Monsanto has lost all three cases in which plaintiffs have alleged that glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup weed killer, has caused their cancer. In each case, the initial damages have been slashed and Bayer continues to further reduce those awards or reverse the verdicts entirely.

There are reports of more than 18,000 plaintiffs nationwide that have filed similar lawsuits claiming that Roundup is linked to their cancer.

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