ST. LOUIS – With nearly three-quarters of the 13,000-plus claims against the manufacturer of herbicide Roundup being litigated in St. Louis city and county courts, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Missouri State Director Brad Jones finds it unfair that an upcoming trial set for Aug. 19 may delay other cases involving local St. Louis businesses in need of trial settings.
“If I’ve got a small business that actually has a legitimate case that’s in St. Louis and they have to wait because you’ve got all these other cases that are flooding into St. Louis from all over the place, first of all, is it fair to the St. Louis small business people that might actually have a case that they need to take care of?” Jones said. “Or is it fair to any of Missouri’s small businesses or individuals who pay taxes that pay for our judiciary?”
In the upcoming trial, Bayer - which acquired St. Louis-based Monsanto last year - will defend claims that Roundup causes cancer.
According to an article published in the St. Louis Dispatch, 75 percent of the 13,400 Roundup claims have been filed in local courts by plaintiffs from all over the country.
NFIB had supported the recent passage of Missouri Senate Bill 7, which puts restrictions on the joinder process – the combining of two or more plaintiffs who have similar claims against a defendant. Proponents of the legislation argued that plaintiff attorneys used joinder of plaintiffs to get around Missouri’s venue requirements by piggybacking the suits of out-of-state residents onto those of Missouri residents.
At hearings in the past legislative session, testimony indicated that of the 13,252 plaintiffs in mass tort lawsuits filed in Missouri in recent years, only 1,035 were from Missouri and only 242 from St. Louis.
The joinder reform bill goes into effect Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Jones believes many St. Louis courts favor plaintiffs rather than businesses and cites it as a reason why the trial is commencing in St. Louis.
“They didn’t just throw a dart and happen to hit St. Louis and say, ‘Hey, maybe we’ll try our case there and maybe we can get it taken care of quickly and we’ll get a big settlement for our clients and consequently take our 25-30 percent,’” Jones said. “Let’s find the most plaintiff-friendly areas and let’s see if we can get our cases filed there, even though they may have absolutely nothing to do with the city of St. Louis or the state of Missouri, for that matter?”
The case in the upcoming trial was initially filed by Illinois resident Sharlean Gordon over allegations she contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to using Roundup for an estimated 14 years. This will be the fourth Roundup trial surrounding these allegations, and will also be the first trial outside of California. Bayer has appealed three verdicts against them, which has totaled more than $2 billion.
Bayer denies that Roundup can be linked to cancer, stating in court documents that media coverage of the trials purposely targeted Monsanto and caused a negative influence in the hearings.
The company also is appealing a California verdict in which a jury awarded $2 billion in damages in May, even though the judge in that case last week slashed the damage award to $87 million.
Bayer argues that the verdict cannot stand "because worldwide regulators have repeatedly concluded that Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic."
The company also calls into question the fact that non-scientist jurors get to decide questions of scientific fact, and that evidence usually comes from highly paid expert witnesses.