High Federal Courts Weigh in on Roundup Legal Dispute

by | Jul 29, 2022 | Injuries, Products Liability

Days after a federal appeals court reversed a key EPA glyphosate rule, the Supreme Court refused to reconsider a $25 million judgment against Roundup’s manufacturer.

The San Francisco-area lawsuit had served as a test case for thousands of similar lawsuits. Bayer had argued that federal regulators have repeatedly determined its products are safe and that lawsuits based on claims under state laws should be dismissed. In a statement, Bayer said it disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision not to take up its case. “The company believes that the decision undermines the ability of companies to rely on official actions taken by expert regulatory agencies, as it permits every U.S. state to require a different product label” in conflict with federal laws, Bayer said.

A week earlier, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an Environmental Protection Agency finding from 2020 that glyphosate does not pose a serious health risk and is “not likely” to cause cancer in humans. The appellate court ordered the EPA to reexamine its finding.

Roundup and Gylphosate

There is considerable evidence that glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is one of the world’s most dangerous carcinogens. There’s also evidence that this chemical is largely harmless. Courts are designed for such fact disputes. Neutral jurors listen to the evidence and make a decision. That’s how it works.

However, there are also some legal questions. One involves the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1910. Bayer, Roundup’s manufacturer, argues that FIFA sets the standard for warning labels. Since the EPA doesn’t require a cancer warning label on glyphosate products, no state can pass contrary standards.

There’s an even more technical question about the qualifications of expert witnesses. Many Roundup claims, and many defective product claims in general, come down to a case of dueling experts. No matter how many, well-qualified experts believe a substance is dangerous, there are always people who will swear in court that the most toxic substance on earth is as safe as mother’s milk.

During a 2015 televised interview, an advocate claimed that glyphosate, an extremely potent herbicide, was perfectly safe. “You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” he insisted. The interviewer then offered the man a pre-prepared glass of glyphosate, and he refused to drink it. “I’m not stupid,” he said.

Defective Products

Usually, manufacturers like Bayer sell the strongest possible drugs and chemicals, so they can make more money. Powerful chemicals usually have powerful side-effects. Unintended and dangerous side-effects usually result from a:

  • Design Defect: Weedkillers are supposed to kill weeds. In their zeal to market the strongest possible weed killer, Bayer may have ignored safety protocols and sold a chemical so potent that it killed more than weed cells. It also killed, or at least dangerously altered, human cells.
  • Manufacturing Defect: Frequently, companies use cheap components so they can maximize their profits. Substitute ingredients, especially if they come from an overseas country without strong consumer protection laws, are often more dangerous. Usually, manufacturers are also legally responsible for defects that happen during shipping and storage.

Usually, the product defect itself is only a side issue. The key issue for a Lexington personal injury lawyer is the manufacturer’s failure to warn consumers about the increased risk. Frequently, companies know about dangerous side-effects. But they do nothing about the problem. They don’t want to scare people and reduce product sales.

If there is clear and convincing evidence that a manufacturer intentionally disregarded a known risk, additional punitive damages are available. These damages must be extremely large to get a company’s attention. Otherwise, the company will write off the damages as the cost of doing business, and it will continue to put profits before people.

Resolving Your Claim for Damages

Because of the nature of defective product litigation, a few cases go to trial. These matters are called bellwether trials. Essentially, a bellwether trial is like a live focus group which enables victims and companies to test their claims and defenses.

In a nutshell, MDL is the pretrial consolidation of different cases into a single court. It would be very inefficient for courts to handle the tens of thousands of Roundup lawsuits on a piecemeal basis. MDL consolidation allows one judge, who usually has specific experience in this area, to oversee things like discovery and settlement negotiations.

Most defective product claims, and most other injury claims, settle out of court. Sometimes, the parties informally agree on a settlement. Much more often, however, a third-party professional mediator gets involved. During mediation, both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith. As a result, mediation is about 90 percent successful.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.