A legal battle is on the horizon for a small United Nations-related research agency alleging that the active ingredient glyphosate in the world’s most popular weed killer — RoundUp, marketed in the United States by Monsanto — is likely carcinogenic to humans. The research agency — which is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — once claimed coffee was also a possible carcinogen. Concerns about the chemical were originally asserted in March of 2015 but there are also concerns about alleged selective suppression of documents that refute the public conclusions of the IARC, according to a news report.
Lawsuits in the U.S. and Beyond
A flood of lawsuits is currently underway seeking monetary damages from Monsanto based, in part, on the IARC’s opinion linking RoundUp with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer (NHL) and other associated forms of leukemia. In the United States, approximately 700 RoundUp cancer lawsuits have been filed on behalf of 3,000 individuals in courts across the nation. The lawsuits claim Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the risk of cancer associated with RoundUp products.
The majority of the U.S.-based legal actions face an important hearing as early as December 2017 to decide the scientific merits of the claims. The hearing was triggered by legal debates between Monsanto’s lawyers and scientific experts alleging the weed killer causes cancer. Monsanto’s attorneys requested a judge toss out the expert testimony presented by the plaintiffs. A number of states in the U.S. apply a different standard of admitting scientific testimony than the federal standard known as the Daubert standard.
Battle of the Scientists
The scientific (and legal) fight over whether or not RoundUp’s glyphosate causes cancer continues while the lawsuits remain open. Most recently, a large long-term study on the use of RoundUp by agricultural workers in the U.S. found no firm link between exposure to the glyphosate-containing pesticide and cancer. The study, which was recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) concluded there was no statistical association between the chemical and any solid tumors or lymphoid malignancies over all, including NHL. The study, known as the Agricultural Health Study, focused on farm workers and their exposure to pesticides reiterated conclusions it had originally reached in 2001 based on its new analysis that was completed in 2014. The study was not considered in the IARC’s analysis — according to the agency — because the JNCI’s conclusions had yet to be published.
Beyond affecting the legal landscape of the pending lawsuits, the study’s findings may also influence the European Union’s decision — due by the end of 2017 — of whether or not glyphosate should be re-licensed for sale across the EU.
Since the IARC classified glyphosate as carcinogenic, regulatory authorities around the globe — including the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia — have publicly noted that glyphosate does not cause cancer.
RoundUp makes up approximately 40 percent of the global market share for the herbicide glyphosate, according to Monsanto. Presently Monsanto is in the middle of a $63.5 billion merger with chemical giant Bayer. The merger is currently being reviewed by the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Products Liability Claims
Defective and/or dangerous products are often the cause of injuries to thousands of individuals each year. These injuries fall under product liability, which encompasses the rules concerning who is financially responsible for the harm caused by defective products put out in the marketplace. Product liability is different from ordinary personal injury law and, depending on the facts of the case, it may be easier for an injured party to recover monetary damages. Under products liability law the designer, manufacture and/or seller of a defective product — in other words, all actors in the distribution chain — may be held liable for harm caused. This means named defendants in a product liability case include: the product manufacturer, a party that installs or assembles the product, a manufacturer of component parts of the product, the wholesaler, and the retailer that sold the product to the consumer.
Generally speaking, products must meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer. When a produce has an unexpected danger or defect, it has not met consumers’ ordinary expectations. Because there is no federal product liability law, products liability claims are governed by state law. Typically these claims are brought under the theories of strict liability, negligence, or breach of warranty. Beyond these legal theories there are commercial statutes in each state, which are modeled from the Uniform Commercial Code, that contain warranty rules that govern product liability cases. For strict liability to apply — meaning negligence need not be established to succeed — the sale of the product must have occured in the regular course of the supplier’s business. In other words, if the injured party purchased the product at a garage sale the seller would likely not be liable.
Historically, a contractual relationship had to exist between the injured party and the supplier of the product for a claim to be valid. Now, however, any person who foreseeably could have been hurt by a defective product may recover compensation for harm suffered as long as the product was sold in the marketplace to someone.
Types of Defects
No matter what legal theory of liability, the injured party (the plaintiff) in a product liability case must establish that the product that caused the harm was defective and the defect was unreasonably dangerous. There are three types of defects that give rise to a product liability claim:
- Manufacturing defects: the defect occurs in the course of the product’s manufacture or assembly so that the product does not match the intended design;
- Design defects: this defect exists in the product at the onset and no matter whether the product is manufactured perfectly to the design specifications, it is inherently unsafe;
- Marketing defects: the manner in which the product is marketed to the consumer is flawed due to improper, insufficient, or inadequate labels, safety warnings, instructions or other aspects of the product.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins’ Lymphoma (NHL) or any other type of cancer due to exposure to RoundUp, contact the skilled RoundUp Weedkiller attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices. Aggressively fighting on behalf of the injured for over 25 years. Click here today to schedule your initial case evaluation.