Bayer AG May End Residential Glyphosate Sales in the U.S.

In May 2021, Bayer AG announced that it may end residential glyphosate sales in the United States. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller Roundup. The announcement came the day after U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria rejected Bayer AG’s $2 billion settlement proposal to cover future claims that Roundup exposure led to victims’ cancer. 

The $2 billion deal intended to cover two groups of Roundup users: those who have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma but have not filed a lawsuit yet, and users who have been exposed to Roundup but haven’t developed cancer yet. Regarding the second group, Judge Chhabria said that the deal was “clearly unreasonable” for them because, in order to receive compensation, victims would have to make two major sacrifices: 

First, although victims could opt out of the compensation program and file a lawsuit against Monsanto, the victims give up their right to seek punitive damages against the company. Given the amount of damages awarded in the three previous Roundup trials, that could be a lot of money for victims to give up. Second, the deal calls for a panel of scientists to determine whether Roundup causes cancer and the results could be used by either party. Monsanto likely wants the science panel because it lost the previous three trials and the issue of current expert testimony regarding Roundup causing cancer weighs heavily in the plaintiffs’ favor. 

Judge Chhabria commented: “The deal would substantially diminish the company’s settlement exposure and litigation exposure at the back end, eliminating punitive damages and potentially increasing its chances of winning trials on compensatory damages. It would accomplish far less for Roundup users who have not been diagnosed with NHL- and not nearly as much as attorneys pushing this deal contend.” 

After the federal judge’s ruling, Bayer AG said: “We have legal and commercial options that together will achieve a similar result in mitigating future litigation risk, and we will pursue them as quickly as possible. Significantly, the weight of scientific evidence and the conclusions of all expert regulators worldwide continue to support the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides.”

Roundup Lawsuits Mount

Bayer AG wants to end the years of litigation that have led to approximately 125,000 claims that Roundup has caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The $9.6 billion settlement announced in June 2020 intends to resolve 96,000 of those claims. 

Three cases have already gone to trial and each has spelled disaster for Bayer AG. In August 2018, a California state court awarded $289 million to school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson after determining that glyphosate caused his cancer. The jury determined that Monsanto had failed to adequately warn consumers about the risks. In March 2019, a jury in San Francisco federal court awarded Edwin Hardeman, a homeowner who used Roundup on his property, $80 million. In May 2019, a jury awarded more than $2 billion to Alva and Albert Piliod who argued that decades of Roundup usage caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Although all three monetary awards were later reduced by judges and Bayer AG has appealed the verdicts, the losses are still staggering for the company.

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You

If you or a loved one developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using or being exposed to Roundup, contact the Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw. Our team has over 30 years of experience providing the Gold standard of advocacy to our clients. 

The Future of Virtual Trials Due to COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020 to allow federal courts to conduct most routine court proceedings by telephone and video hookups. Since then, several courts have conducted virtual bench trials which do not require a jury and some courts have even held virtual civil jury trials.  

The Western District of Washington, the Middle District of Florida, and the District of Minnesota have already conducted virtual civil jury trials with jurors serving from their homes. The federal trial courts in Rhode Island and Kansas are currently planning their first civil jury trials. 

Under the CARES Act, the judiciary will end most electronic proceedings after the pandemic emergency is declared to be over. However, judges in many jurisdictions are advocating for continuing virtual court procedures even after the pandemic. 

Western District of Washington

The Western District of Washington started virtual civil jury trials in September 2020, which piloted the Zoom civil jury trial for many other states.

Of the four virtual trials that have already occurred, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman has presided over two of them. Regarding the virtual jury trial experience, Judge Pechman said: “Video jury trials are a tool that can be used, and it’s a tool we need to use unless we are going to be backed up forever and ever. It has worked better than my initial expectations, all the way around. The jurors have been very, very diligent. They’ve cleared themselves of distractions and worked hard to pay attention.” 

Judge Pechman initially worried that the required computer equipment might skew the jury pool by reducing the number of elderly and low-income jurors. However, the court addressed this by training jurors who needed computer skills and lending computers to those who did not have equipment.

Judge Pechman also debriefed each juror about their experience: “We asked if you feel like you can pay attention while you’re sitting in your own home. The jurors overwhelmingly said yes. I know the lawyers would say this guy was sitting in his laundry room, and this lady was sitting on her bed, but the point is, we invaded their house, and they found the best space they could in order to pay attention.” 

Judge Pechman noted other benefits such as reduced costs and decreased travel time for jurors, attorneys, and witnesses.

After her experiences, Judge Pechman now advocates for continuing virtual civil trials even after the pandemic:  “I have no backlog. Every single case I had set in 2020 got tried in 2020. I tell my fellow judges this may be the only way the wheels of justice will still turn.”

On February 5, 2021, the Western District of Washington hosted a how-to seminar for virtual trials which attracted more than 900 participants from more than 60 district courts.

Middle District of Florida

Judge Mary Scriven of the Middle District of Florida also highly recommends extending virtual court procedures beyond the pandemic after her experience presiding over a five-day virtual civil trial in late January 2021: “It flowed seamlessly from jury selection through deliberations. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I highly recommend the virtual trial procedure to other judges in the District facing a backlog of civil cases due to the pandemic.”

She noted that the jurors especially appreciated “the ability to see the exhibits and see and hear the witnesses clearly because everything was magnified on the screen.”

District of Rhode Island

The suspended jury trials and in-person proceedings during the pandemic will create a backlog for the courts once they do reopen. However, judges recognize that virtual civil trials present an opportunity to address the backlog now. 

The District of Rhode Island Chief Judge John McConnell addressed the backlog of cases: “When we realized that once we are able to conduct trials again, we’re going to have to prioritize criminal trials and we aren’t likely this year to get to in-person civil jury trials, we didn’t think it was appropriate not to offer litigants their Seventh Amendment right for that long.”

In response, the federal trial court in Rhode Island is currently preparing for its first virtual civil jury trial. The Rhode Island district court almost held its first virtual civil jury trial recently, but the parties settled the day before trial.

District of Massachusetts

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani from the District of Massachusetts has presided over two virtual trials. Judge Talwani observed benefits such as jurors being able to see the witnesses’ full faces on a screen 18 inches away instead of an obstructed angle from a witness box. Furthermore, Judge Talwani noted the increased convenience for all parties: “For these parties, the difference of not having to travel here was enormous. To be able to do all of that without everyone having to spend the travel time worked very well. If people are cost conscious, it would make a huge difference.”

Harris County Civil Court in Texas

Judge Tanya Garrison of the Harris County Civil Court in Texas also discussed the benefits of virtual court and expressed that she observed.  She specifically commented on the increased efficiency of hearings, monetary and time savings for clients, decreased hassle and frustration, ease of accommodating witnesses, virtual depositions, and a positive impact on settlement hearings for minors since parents do not need to take time off work.

District of Minnesota

The District of Minnesota’s Chief Judge John Tunheim explained that Minnesota will continue holding Zoom trials for civil court cases after the pandemic due to the plethora of benefits including decreased costs, increased convenience, a decrease in the criminal case backlog, allowing trials to proceed despite Minnesota’s varying weather conditions, and ensuring that the  jury pools reflect a diverse cross-section of the community. To learn more about Minnesota judicial system’s opinion of virtual trials, please read “Judicial Changes in Minnesota Due to COVID-19”

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help

Our team at GoldenbergLaw has been helping clients achieve the Gold standard of advocacy for more than 30 years. COVID-19 has shifted the landscape of litigation and you need a law firm that understands and responds to these changes. We help clients across the country, and we would be honored to speak with you! Contact GoldenbergLaw today for a free consultation!