Monsanto shouldn’t individually screen jurors “as if it were a death penalty case,” for two upcoming bellwether trials involving consumer claims that its herbicide Roundup caused their cancer, a California judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation (MDL) said.
Instead, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria suggested that the parties screen a pool of about 500 potential jurors to see if they were able to commit about a month of their time to sit for the trials, and that the parties come up with questions that the court could send the potential jurors before questioning them as a group.
Attorneys for Monsanto raised concerns that potential jurors may have been swayed by recent media coverage of the first Roundup trial, during which a campus groundskeeper claimed the company’s Roundup and Ranger Pro weed killers contributed to his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In August, a jury awarded him $289 million in damages. The state judge denied Monsanto’s motion to vacate the verdict, opting instead to reduce the award by $211 million.
Judge Chhabria was unmoved by Monsanto’s concern of media bias, saying he is “strongly against” individually screening potential jurors. He asked both parties to submit briefings as well as jury questions by the end of the month.
Monsanto, which was recently acquired by Bayer AG, is facing about 5,200 lawsuits alleging its Roundup and Ranger Pro herbicides caused cancer. Hundreds of those cases are consoliated in a multidistrict litigation, overseen by Judge Chhabria. The first two trial dates are scheduled for Feb. 25 and May 6.