Anyone concerned about probable carcinogens in the environment needs to keep an eye on the trial of Edward Hardeman v. Monsanto Company, which begins on February 25, in the Federal District Court in San Francisco. A bellwether for future challenges against the company, the federal court has grouped hundreds of plaintiffs into this multidistrict litigation case. The plaintiffs have sued Monsanto claiming to have contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) after being exposed to Roundup, the company’s glyphosate-based herbicide. While there are an estimated 9,300 lawsuits against the chemical giant because of Roundup, Hardeman will be only the second NHL trial against Monsanto ever.
Judge Vince Chhabria has already granted an unusual motion by Monsanto to split the Hardeman trial into two phases. Characterized as “unheard of” by the plaintiffs, this way of trying a case is called bifurcation, consisting of a first phase that would have the jury determine if there is a preponderance of scientific evidence that Roundup caused Hardeman’s cancer. If the jury finds this to be true, they will then be allowed to decide if Monsanto knew of and attempted to hide the dangers of Roundup. To do this, they will be shown internal Monsanto documents that reveal how the company ignored or tried to discredit legitimate science and scientists, ghostwrote scientific studies and manipulated regulators. (I saw this evidence firsthand, because I was a juror on the first ever NHL trial, Dwayne Lee Johnson v. Monsanto.)