Why Are People Suing Monsanto?
The litigation against Monsanto is about choice. The plaintiffs that we represent believe that Monsanto’s failure to warn consumers about known health dangers associated with its Roundup weed killer deprived them of the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether the benefit of using the product outweighed the risks.
Lee Johnson started working for the Benicia Unified School District in 2012. His work initially consisted of running mail around the school district. Later, Mr. Johnson was promoted to integrated pest manager, a position that required him to spray upwards of 150 gallons of Monsanto weed killers on a given day around school properties. He was repeatedly exposed to Monsanto herbicides.
In 2014, Lee began to experience severe skin irritation, which came as a surprise because his skin, up until that point, had always been perfect. He reported the condition to health care providers, who initially did not know what it was.
Lee then contacted Monsanto to ask if the irritation was related to his use of Monsanto’s herbicides. The details of Lee’s inquiry were brought to the attention of Dr. Daniel Goldstein, Monsanto’s medical director, who indicated in an email that he would contact Lee.
Dr. Goldstein never contacted Lee, so he continued to use Monsanto weed killers on the job believing them to be safe.
Medical notes from around this time show that Lee’s symptoms continued to get worse. His health care providers consulted Monsanto’s Material Safety Data Sheet for Ranger Pro, which did not refer to any type of cancer risk.
In August of 2014, Lee was diagnosed with epidermotropic T-cell lymphoma. After his diagnosis, Lee’s job still required him to apply and be in close contact with Monsanto glyphosate-based herbicides.
Months later in March of 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a comprehensive evaluation of the published, peer-reviewed data on glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro. Based on the data, the agency concluded that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen” and that glyphosate formulations (glyphosate plus other chemicals) can induce oxidative damage. Considerable evidence has linked oxidative damage to cancer.
Despite enduring chemotherapy treatments throughout 2015, his cancer progressed and in September, a biopsy revealed mycosis fungoides (non-Hodgkin lymphoma with large cell transformation).
“His cancer, while he was spraying, had transformed from a relatively controllable type to one that, essentially, is a death sentence. The fact that Monsanto never called him back, the fact that they never warned him, deprived him of the ability to make an informed choice,” Wisner told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman in an interview after the trial.
“I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm,” Mr. Johnson testified. “It’s unethical. It’s wrong. People don’t deserve that.”
When Lee put it together that exposure to Monsanto herbicides may have caused his cancer, he decided to file a lawsuit against Monsanto. He had many motivations for doing so; his wife and sons, first and foremost, but he also recognized that the fight to hold Monsanto responsible is not just for him, it is for everyone who uses Monsanto weed killers without being informed about their dangers:
“After I learned about Roundup and glyphosate and everything, I wanted to be able to help. The cause is way bigger than me, so hopefully the verdict will start to get the attention that it needs to get right, so folks can make an informed choice.” – Lee Johnson
After the landmark Monsanto Roundup verdict was read, Wisner told the media that Lee hopes to use his compensation to spend more time with his family. His wife has to put in 14-hour days so the family can make ends meet and afford to pay Lee’s substantial medical costs. Lee may also use the compensation to fund a bone marrow transplant.
Lee’s experience is similar to Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s, who used Roundup for decades believing it was the safest product for themselves, their family and the deer, ducks and other wildlife roaming through their property. Alberta once said in an interview that she thought Roundup was akin to “sugar water.” An advertising campaign for Roundup once labeled the product as “safer than table salt.”
The couple never used protective equipment when they sprayed and would never have used Roundup if they had known of the health risks linked to the herbicide. “We are very angry. We hope to get justice,” Alberta Pilliod said in an interview before the couple had their day in court.
Like other plaintiffs in the Roundup litigation, the Pilliods accused Monsanto of engaging in a “prolonged campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers and the general public that Roundup was safe”.
Third-generation California farmer John Barton, who was diagnosed with NHL in 2015, is eager to have his day in court against Monsanto, especially because Bayer continues to maintain that glyphosate (Roundup’s key ingredient) is safe.
“Monsanto needs to realize that we are not going to be silent anymore,” said Barton, who is represented by Wisner Baum. “We are not going to roll over and play dead…People should be warned that this stuff is everywhere and we should be careful of this product.”
One of Barton’s biggest fears is that his three sons could get sick due to exposure to Roundup. “My dad exposed me to this. He never would’ve done that if he knew it was dangerous,” he added. “I have this guilt that I may have endangered my own sons.”
Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit Settlement
The media, clients and others have contacted us following the early verdicts to ask if we anticipate cases resolving in a Monsanto Roundup settlement. Monsanto and Bayer have made it clear in media statements that they are appealing the verdicts and continue to defend Roundup and glyphosate in the thousands of other pending court cases.
In May of 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria appointed prominent attorney Kenneth Feinberg to mediate court-ordered Monsanto Roundup settlement discussions in the federal MDL. Feinberg facilitated dispute resolutions in previous high stakes litigations, including the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal and the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill.
On June 24, 2020, Bayer announced a comprehensive settlement. Our law firm issued the following statement:
Wisner Baum Statement regarding Roundup Litigation Settlement: Wisner Baum is pleased with the settlement. It is a big first step in correcting the forty years of harm caused by glyphosate. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is devastating. Over the last four years, as we have pressed this litigation forward despite innumerable obstacles, we have had tremendous success in a few important cases. But, those successes have been tempered with the fact that many of our clients continue to suffer from the consequences of cancer. The settlement is for everyone and should help our clients rebuild and move forward in a meaningful way. Actual settlement amounts are yet to be determined, and each of our clients will be made an individual offer based on the facts of their case. For now, however, this is an important and historic day in the fight to protect consumers from harmful pesticides. And, while the story of glyphosate is not over- there are likely many fights surrounding cancer, food safety, and GMOs to be had- this chapter of the glyphosate litigation is over.
Attorneys Behind the Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit Victories
The law firm of Wisner Baum served on the trial teams for the first three Roundup cancer lawsuits to go before juries in Northern California, with attorney Brent Wisner delivering the openings and closing statements in two of the three trials. The cases resulted in jury verdicts for the plaintiffs worth a combined $2.424 billion.
Recognized as one of the leading voices in the fight against Monsanto, our firm represents plaintiffs across the nation in Roundup cancer lawsuits. The firm holds leadership positions in the federal multidistrict litigation against Monsanto (Roundup MDL) before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in Northern California, and the California state litigation (Roundup JCCP) before Judge Winifred Smith.
Wisner Baum was also instrumental in releasing a trove of documents that are now a part of the Monsanto Papers. The documents, which include internal Monsanto emails, text messages company studies, reports and other memoranda, tell an alarming story of ghostwriting, scientific manipulation, collusion with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and previously undisclosed information about how the human body absorbs glyphosate.