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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Bayer urges judge to reverse verdict or order new trial in Pilliod cancer case against Monsanto


By Rich Peters | Jun 19, 2019


OAKLAND, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – Bayer has filed multiple post-trial motions asking California Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith to reverse last month’s verdict or order a new trial in the case of Pilliod v. Monsanto.

The German company, which purchased Monsanto last year, set forth a number of claims behind its key arguments that the evidence did not support causation; the plaintiffs’ counsel made improper arguments; evidence was erroneously admitted or excluded; there was a failure to sever the plaintiffs into separate trials; and excessive and unconstitutional punitive damages were awarded. It filed a memorandum of points and authorities in support of its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a motion for a new trial on June 17.

An Alameda County Superior Court jury ruled against Monsanto on May 13 in the company’s third straight loss in which the plaintiffs alleged that its Roundup product caused their cancer, awarding the Bay Area couple more than $2 billion in damages.

Plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod alleged that glyphosate, the active chemical within Roundup, was a substantial factor in causing their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and that the company failed to warn its customers of the dangers that its product posed.

The couple, both in their 70s, was said to have used Roundup around several Bay Area properties for three decades before stopping in 2016 when they became aware of a possible link between glyphosate and NHL.

Bayer argues in its June 17 post-trial motion for a new trial that the “verdicts do not reflect the evidence presented in the case; they reflect deep passion and prejudice borne from plaintiffs’ counsel’s improper argument rested on inflammatory, fabricated and irrelevant evidence that should have been excluded…The resulting trial focused not on ascertaining the truth regarding the state of the science, causation, and compliance with legal duties, but instead on vilifying Monsanto in the abstract.”

In what was at the time seen as a huge win for Monsanto, the EPA released a statement regarding their findings on the safety of glyphosate during the closing days of the Pilliod trial:

“EPA has found no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a written statement on April 30. “Today’s proposed action includes new management measures that will help farmers use glyphosate in the most effective and efficient way possible, including pollinator protections. We look forward to input from farmers and other stakeholders to ensure that the draft management measures are workable, realistic and effective.”

But in this instance, science played a smaller factor in the jury’s verdict than in the recent Monsanto cases filed by DeWayne Johnson and Edwin Hardeman due to evidence of certain email and text message conversations between Monsanto and other state and federal agencies being allowed into the trial, showing the level of comfort between parties. And, as previously reported by Legal Newsline, those emails exposed by the Pilliods’ legal team proved to be more than enough to convince the jury of Monsanto’s negligence.

However, the focus on Monsanto employee’s relationships rather than science has led Bayer to believe that the jury was unfairly skewed. The company alleges in its motion for a new trial that the verdicts “reflect the culmination of weeks of calculated effort by plaintiffs’ counsel to obscure the facts and engender deep passion and prejudice through the use of irrelevant evidence and inflammatory argument. The multi-billion dollar award is unhinged from the evidence and from due process. A new trial is required.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney Michael J. Miller of the Miller Firm responded to Bayer’s recent motions. 

“Monsanto is arguing the same worn out arguments it unsuccessfully used in the first trial,” he said in a written statement.

The next trial at the state level, Gordon v. Monsanto, is set for Monday, Aug. 19 in St. Louis County Circuit Court, located near Monsanto’s longtime world headquarters until Bayer acquired the company. The case was filed in July 2017 on behalf of nearly 80 plaintiffs. Gordon is the first of that group to go to trial as well as the first outside of the state of California.

A San Francisco federal Judge last month set a February 2020 trial date for Stevick v. Monsanto, the second bellwether case at the federal level, after postponing it earlier this year.

More than 13,000 plaintiffs across the country have filed similar lawsuits against Monsanto, blaming glyphosate exposure through their use of Roundup for their NHL.

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Monsanto CompanyAlameda County Superior Court

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