St. Louis Record

Monday, November 18, 2019

First Monsanto herbicide cancer trial in St. Louis, due to begin next week, postponed

State Court

By John Breslin | Oct 8, 2019


ST. LOUIS – A trial in St. Louis over claims that a key ingredient in an herbicide was linked to cancer in number of people is postponed.

The trial, the first against German conglomerate Bayer and its Roundup weedkiller to be held in St. Louis, was due to start Tuesday, Oct. 15 in St. Louis City Circuit Court.

Bayer, which acquired Roundup maker Missouri-based Monsanto in a $60 billion deal last year, faces claims glyphosate is largely responsible for individuals contracting cancer, largely non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

The company has faced three trials to date, all in California, all ending with large plaintiffs' verdicts that are being appealed.

“The Oct. 15, 2019 trial date for Winston v. Monsanto in St. Louis City has been postponed, and the parties will work with the court to determine a new date," Daniel Childs, Bayer's director of external communications, said. "With the change in the trial schedule and no trial dates set through the rest of the year, the appeals of the three completed trials will be a significant focus of the litigation in the months ahead.”

A status conference has been set for Feb. 10 next year, according to an Oct. 4 docket entry. Circuit Judge Michael Mullen is presiding over the action.

Walter Winston, Mary Campbell, Kyle Chaplick and others allege the herbicide's manufacture and design were defective. All plaintiffs claim they developed cancer as a result of exposure to Roundup.

An estimated 18,000 people are suing Bayer across the country, with the most recent jury trial earlier this year in Alameda County Superior Court in California, leading to an awarded of $55 million as compensation and $2 billion in punitive damages. The award was later reduced, and the California judge tentatively granted Bayer's petition for a new trial over allegations of misconduct from the plaintiffs' lawyers.

A jury hearing the first case in a San Francisco court last summer found against Bayer. The jury awarded the plaintiff $289 million, later reduced to $78 million.

In the first case heard in federal court, again in California, Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California signed off in May on a final judgment of $80 million against the company that was later reduced. Chhabria is presiding over some 900 cases consolidated as multi-district litigation.

Reports, including by Bloomberg, that Bayer was close to agreeing a global settlement totaling between $6 billion to $8 billion have not been confirmed.

Kenneth Feinberg, the seasoned mediator charged by Chhabria in San Francisco to pursue an agreement on cases consolidated in his federal court, told Bloomberg the numbers quoted are "pure fiction."

Bayer did announce it hired outside counsel and set up a committee in response to the lawsuits and its falling share price, with the company estimated to have lost $30 billion of its market value in the aftermath of the jury verdicts and awards.

The Winston plaintiffs are represented by Niemeyer, Grebel & Kruse in St. Louis and Weitz & Luxenberg in New York.

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