Roundup’s Legal Woes Continue to Worsen

| Jan 29, 2021 | Products Liability

Company stockholders cheered when the Environmental Protection Agency re-approved glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Roundup. Now, an advocacy group wants a court to reverse that decision.

Lawyers at the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit seeking to block the sale or use of Roundup. “Farmworkers are on the frontlines of nearly every health and environmental crisis, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change, and are particularly at risk of health impacts from pesticide spraying,” said senior CFS attorney Amy van Saun. “EPA failed these essential workers. It rejected evidence that glyphosate causes cancer and entirely failed to assess the main way people are exposed at work, through their skin.”

The lawsuit also claims that Roundup adversely affects beneficial insects, like honeybees and Monarch butterflies.

Roundup’s Dangers

Monsanto, which is now part of Bayer, began selling Roundup in the early 1970s. Roundup was already one of the world’s best-selling commercial and residential herbicides when, in the late 1990s, Monsanto began rolling out a line of genetically-altered Roundup Ready crops. This innovation, which allowed farmers to significantly increase their Roundup use without adversely affecting their harvests, increased Roundup’s use even more. By 2007, it was by far the most-used herbicide in the world. 

Chemically, glyphosate penetrates leaves and blocks a key enzyme, causing the cells to die. The same thing could happen to landscapers, agricultural workers, and other individuals who work around Roundup. Glyphosate absorbs through their skin and mutates the cell structure. In humans, this mutation presents as cancer.

A number of organizations have labeled glyphosate as a cancer-causing chemical. Other groups, such as the EPA, state that Roundup is reasonably safe as long as it is used as directed. A few states, including California, have banned Roundup because of these health concerns.

In other words, the evidence of harm is mixed. Generally, mixed evidence is all that a Lexington personal injury needs in order to obtain compensation. The burden of proof in civil court is only a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. There could be a mountain of evidence which indicates that Roundup is safe. But if the mountain of evidence which indicates it is harmful is just a little taller, or a little more solid, compensation is available.

Design Defects

When scientists developed Roundup in the 1960s, they looked for the strongest ingredient possible, so Roundup would kill as many weeds as possible. Since Monsanto’s researchers basically only cared about profits, they paid little attention to Roundup’s dangers. This situation is a classic example of a design defect.

Legally, design defects occur when a product is on the drawing board. The manufacturing and sales process usually makes these defects worse. So, companies are strictly liable for injuries their design defects cause. 

MoM (metal-on-metal) hip implants, which are extremely popular, are another good example of a design defect. Hips are cup and socket joints. MoM implants have metal caps and metal sockets. The all-metal construction was supposed to make artificial hips more durable. 

But there was a critical design flaw. Every time people take a step, the friction releases tiny metal flakes into the bloodstream. These flakes accumulate over time and cause metal poisoning (metallosis). This condition usually causes the hip implant to shift and fail.

Typically, companies like Monsanto discover the design defect and they have an opportunity to correct the problem. Frequently, since the manufacturing process has so many moving parts, these companies believe it is cheaper to ignore the problem and risk lawsuits. The math is usually on their side. Over the years, Monsanto/Bayer has earned over $55 billion from Roundup sales. So, the $10 billion settlement fund is a rather small price to pay, at least as far as corporate accountants are concerned.

High punitive damages awards are the only way to convince companies like Monsanto to put people before profits. Otherwise, when the company runs a cost-benefit analysis, victims always lose.

Establishing a Design Defect

Personal injury claims usually boil down to the evidence presented, and design defect claims are no different.

Companies like Monsanto routinely produce experts who claim the allegedly defective product is safe. In 2015, noted ecologist Patrick Moore made a bold claim in this area. “You can drink a whole quart of [glyphosate] and it won’t hurt you,” he insisted. When the interviewer asked him to put his money where his mouth was, Dr. Moore refused, saying “I’m not stupid” and “I’m not an idiot.”

Because of the preponderance of the evidence standard mentioned above, the victim/plaintiff’s experts must either be more well qualified than the defendant’s experts or better able to connect with jurors. Most experts have roughly the same qualifications. So, a victim/plaintiff must usually emphasize quality.

If a victim convinces a jury that Roundup is dangerous, substantial compensation is usually available. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.