More than 2,000 people have filed lawsuits alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If you are considering filing a Roundup lawsuit, contact our lawyers today for a free, confidential consultation. You can reach me by calling my office at (215) 948-2718 (or, toll free, (844) 459-8719), emailing me at msk@thlawyer.com, or by using the contact form at the bottom.

This page discusses the nature of the cases, the status of the litigation and potential settlements, the allegations against Monsanto, and the science and medicine supporting the claims, and answers frequently asked questions like:

  • Do I have a Roundup case?
  • What’s the status of the lawsuits?
  • Have there been any Roundup settlements?
  • What claims are plaintiffs bringing against Monsanto?
  • Has Roundup been proven to cause cancer?
  • What are Monsanto’s defenses?

 

Do I Have A Roundup Case?

In theory, anyone who used Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma could file a lawsuit. But that’s not necessarily a good idea: for example, a person may discover later that, given the circumstances of their case, they are unable to obtain any testimony by expert physicians or scientists to support their case. Every case is different and must be evaluated on an individual basis, and plaintiff’s lawyers may use different criteria when evaluating how likely a case is to succeed.

Scientifically, one study showed a statistically-significant increase in the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with even just 10 days of exposure a year to glyphosate-based herbicides. Another study showed a statistically-significant increase in the risk of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma if a person was ever exposed to it. If you had any regular exposure to Roundup before being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, we’re happen to discuss it with you, confidentially and with no strings attached.

 

What Is The Status Of The Litigation?

As of the summer of 2019, three of these cases have gone to trial, and, in each case, the jury returned with verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs and assessing millions of dollars in damages against Monsanto. The next trial is scheduled to begin on August 19, 2019.

Most of the lawsuits are filed in one of three venues:

That’s not unusual. Due to legal rules relating to jurisdiction and civil procedure, most mass torts lawsuits that involve a lot of people hurt across the country, such as drug injury lawsuits, end up in a single federal proceeding and then one or two state-court proceedings.

It is also normal for large, nationwide litigation to begin with a small number of trials. This is known as the “bellwether” process, in which a small number of cases are brought to trial in the hopes that those trial results will better inform the court and the parties about the merits of the cases.

 

Have There Been Any Monsanto Roundup Settlements?

To date, there are no publicly known individual settlements of Roundup claims, and Monsanto has not offered any sort of ‘global’ settlements to everyone who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup. That is not unusual at this stage of a nationwide litigation involving thousands of plaintiffs. It is likely that, at various points, certain “bellwether” cases will settle, but that does not necessarily mean any larger settlements are imminent.

There’s no guarantee that any of these cases will succeed or reach a settlement. If settlements are reached, there are a couple ways they could happen. Sometimes, global settlement agreements are reached after enough of the “bellwether” trials have been held. Other times, settlement discussions occur piecemeal, with some groups plaintiffs at a time, and finally in some situations the individual cases have to keep progressing and they settle as they come up.

 

What Claims Are Plaintiffs Bringing Against Monsanto?

The types of claims a plaintiff can bring depend upon their circumstances and the state they live in. In general, the plaintiffs are bringing claims for “strict liability” and for “negligence.” They allege that Monsanto knew or should have known that Roundup was capable of causing or contributing to the plaintiff developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but Monsanto didn’t warn them about this possibility or use a different formulation of herbicide.

Many of the documents from the litigation have been made public. For a full description of Monsanto’s conduct in minimizing the risks of Round, see this expert report from a public health professor who previously worked with Congress and the National Academy of Sciences on agricultural research. To sum it up:

  • The initial mutagenicity and genotoxicity studies submitted to the EPA by Monsanto in the 1970s were revealed to be invalid or fraudulent.
  • A study Monsanto submitted to the EPA in 1983 (the “Bio/dynamics” study) showed feeding mice glyphosate produced a statistically significant increase in tumors, and in 1985 the EPA classified glyphosate as a “possible human oncogen.”
  • Ever since, Monsanto has refused to perform many of the studies that would shed light on whether Roundup was capable of causing cancer, including studies requested by the EPA.
  • In 1986, the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs directed Monsanto to include worker safety language on Roundup product labels. Monsanto refused to do so, and never added appropriate language about the need for Personal Protective Equipment when mixing or applying Roundup.
  • In 1999, Monsanto asked a professor of genetic studies to review several recent studies, and he noted “both Glyphosate and Roundup induced significance increases in DNA strand breaks in mouse liver and kidney,” and that “the overall data provided by the four publications provide evidence to support a model that Glyphosate is capable of producing genotoxicity both in vivo and in vitro by a mechanism based upon the production of oxidative damage.”
  • Instead of adding a warning, Monsanto tried to muddle the scientific debate by paying researchers to submit scientific papers that were actually “ghostwritten” by Monsanto.
  • Roundup uses a surfactant to make it go deeper into weeds. In 2002, in response to European regulators, Monsanto comissioned a study to determine the extent to which Roundup was absorbed by skin. The initial study reports show that the Roundup formulation caused nearly eight times as my glyphosate to be absorbed into the skin, and so Monsanto stopped the study.
  • As discussed below, beginning in the 2000s, a number of scientific papers have shown that Roundup is genotoxic and that people who use Roundup are more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Monsanto, however, has still refused to improve its labels or to accept responsibility for the injuries caused by Roundup.

 

Has Roundup Been Proven To Cause Cancer?

In medicine and science, “proving” that a chemical causes an injury requires a sophisticated analysis and, with it, a number of professional judgment calls. Drug companies usually show new medications work by conducting clinical trials, in which some people get the drug and others get a placebo. But that cannot be done with Roundup: no doctor or scientist is going to intentionally expose people to a suspected carcinogen to see if they develop cancer. That would be unethical and illegal.

Instead, the types of scientists and doctors who study the causes of diseases, like epidemiologists and pathologists, will usually look to two main types of evidence:

  • epidemiological studies that look for a statistical association between use of the chemical and the diseases, and
  • toxicological studies that examine how the chemical affects cells and tissues, whether extracted from an animal or human (in vitro) or in a live animal (in vivo).

Statistical association:

Studies showing a link between herbicides and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma go back more than thirty years. In 1986, researchers published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found “Men exposed to herbicides more than 20 days per year had a sixfold increased risk of NHL (OR, 6.0; 95% CI, 1.9, 19.5) relative to nonfarmers. Frequent users who mixed or applied the herbicides themselves had an OR of 8.0 (95% CI, 2.3, 27.9) for NHL.” In 2001, researchers showed that a variety of herbicides were associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Among their findings was data showing that men who worked with organophosphours insecticides — which includes Roundup — were 73% more likely to develop NHL.

Some studies have shown a statistical association between the use of glyphosate and glyphosate formulations and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, while other studies have not shown an association. A lot depends on how the researchers choose to analyze the data. In 2019, for example, researchers pooled together data from three cohort studies and found no connection between “ever” using glyphosate and developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That would be expected for many carcinogens, where the danger doesn’t come from “ever” being exposed to a substance, but from the cumulative dose. It would be unusual and extremely alarming if there was an association between “ever” using glyphosate and cancer — and the researchers did find such a link between glyphosate and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Also in 2019, other researchers published a meta-analysis combining all of the studies that specifically addressed glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and they focused on the people in those studies with the highest levels of exposure. They found the people who spent the most time around glyphosate-based herbicides were 41% more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

That isn’t to say that scientists can just slice the data however they want to make up results. Rather, it’s just noting that interpreting epidemiological data is more than just plugging numbers into a spreadsheet. Scientists have to account for issues like the biology of cancer, which takes years to appear, and how the danger of carcinogens is often a matter of cumulative exposure. For example, the risk of smoking one cigarette a week is far lower than the risk of smoking a pack of cigarettes every day.

Toxicological Studies:

Multiple studies have shown that Roundup is genotoxic. The first serious study on glyphosate whether causes cancer, the “Bio/dynamic mouse study,” was submitted to EPA in 1983. That study showed an increase in renal tubular adenomas in male mice, and the EPA classified glyphosate as a “possible human oncogen” in 1985. As noted above, in 1999, Monsanto asked a professor of genetic studies to review several studies, and he concluded the studies supported “a model that Glyphosate is capable of producing genotoxicity both in vivo and in vitro by a mechanism based upon the production of oxidative damage.” In 2007, a published in vitro study showed that the Roundup formulation was more cytotoxic than glyphosate by itself. Other studies have confirmed “glyphosate promotes proliferation in [human skin] cells” and induces “oxidative stress.”

All in all, twelve different published studies of mammals have shown that glyphosate-based herbicides are genotoxic, including five studies showing DNA damage and three studies showing oxidative stress in human cells. For example, a 2017 study using human liver cells found “significant oxidative damage” after glyphosate was added in vitro.

 

What Are Monsanto’s Defenses?

In an injury lawsuit, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the defendant was negligent and that the negligence caused their injury. Monsanto denies that it did anything wrong, denies that Roundup is capable of causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and denies that any of the plaintiffs were exposed to enough Roundup to cause their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They have hired expert witnesses to provide testimony at trial in support of their defenses.

Monsanto has also told reporters that it plans to argue that all of the cases should be thrown out because the EPA approved Roundup’s label. That argument is known as “preemption,” which I’ve discussed several times on this website. In May 2019, the Supreme Court decided a case involving “preemption” in the context of lawsuits over prescription drug injuries. As I discussed in that post, the case was on the whole a victory for plaintiffs. Given that decision and prior cases on the issue, like Bates v. Dow Agrosciences, it appears unlikely that the Supreme Court would side with Monsanto’s argument, but, either way, Monsanto’s “preemption” arguments are likely to delay settlements of the case as Monsanto pursues appeals.

If you’d like to learn more about preemption and general, here’s a video of a discussion panel I did on Capitol Hill a few years ago, and another video of a panel I did earlier this year at a judicial conference.

 

What Are The Treatment Options For People With Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Note: all treatment decisions should be made with a doctor! I provide these links to help patients research matters to discuss with their doctors.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (“NHL”) is a cancer that begins in white blood cells called lymphocytes, most commonly in the B-cells of the lymphatic system, which create antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses. Some lymphomas are “indolent,” and spread more slowly, while others are “aggressive,” like diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL). A number of strides have been made recently in the treatment of DLBCL, as reflected by the 2016 update to the WHO criteria, but it remains a deadly disease.

In May 2019, the FDA approved lenalidomide (Revlimid) with rituximab (R2) for treatment of follicular lymphoma or marginal zone lymphoma, and thus there are ways to treat indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma without chemotherapy. Treating aggressive NHL usually requires combination chemotherapy. Trials involving stem cells are underway, but their benefit is currently unclear.

 

Contact Our Lawyers Today For A Confidential, No-Obligation Consultation

If you are considering filing a Roundup lawsuit, contact our lawyers today for a free, confidential consultation. You can reach me by calling my office at (215) 948-2718 (or, toll free, (844) 459-8719), emailing me at msk@thlawyer.com, or by using the contact form at the bottom. If you don’t regularly check your email, please also leave your phone number with the contact form.

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