The first three bellwether trials in a multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California blaming an ingredient in the weed killer Roundup for causing cancer will be split into two phases. The first phase of the trials will focus on whether the ingredient glyphosate caused the plaintiffs’ cancer and, if so, the second phase will proceed to determine Bayer’s liability.
The order was handed down by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, granting a request by Bayer to separate the issues in the case of Edwin Hardeman. The order will apply to Hardeman’s bellwether trial, scheduled for Feb. 25, and two other bellwethers scheduled for later this year. These will be the first cases to be heard among about 620 pending in the multidistrict litigation.
The two-phase system will bar Hardeman’s attorneys from including evidence in the first phase that Monsanto attempted to influence regulators and manipulated public opinion about the chemical glyphosate in its popular herbicide Roundup. Instead, it will focus on whether glyphosate caused the plaintiff’s cancer. If the jury finds that glyphosate is, in fact, the cause of the plaintiff’s cancer, then the trial will proceed to the second phase, during which Hardeman’s attorneys will be allowed to include evidence of the company’s misconduct.
Hardeman’s attorneys fought against this approach, arguing that documents showing the company’s misconduct were key in the landmark trial last August during which a California state jury awarded a school groundskeeper $289 million after finding his exposure to Roundup contributed to his non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis. The award was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal.
The Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t listed glyphosate as a cancer causing agent, but the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 listed glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.