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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Seeing all those Roundup commercials? That's because lawyers have spent $60M on them this year

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By John O'Brien | Oct 10, 2019


The search for clients to file cancer lawsuits over the weed-killer Roundup has exploded – even as the EPA says the product does not cause what lawyers are alleging.

Millions have been poured into television advertising by lawyers and the referral services they rely on, a trend that could result in an explosion of lawsuits against Bayer AG – the company that acquired Roundup-maker Monsanto last year for $63 billion.

Huge verdicts that Bayer and some observers say are based on junk science allowed into evidence by judges in San Francisco have plaintiffs lawyers making huge investments in finding new clients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

According to X Ante, a firm that tracks lawyer advertising, spending on Roundup commercials went from $7.7 million in 2018 to nearly $60 million in the first nine months of 2019.

More than $38 million came in just July and August, creating a total of $58.8 million in 2019 through August.

“(W)e expect to see a significant surge in the number of plaintiff filings over the third quarter,” the company said. “That said, the number of plaintiffs is not an indication of the merits of these cases.”

X Ante recently provided Legal Newsline with figures on lawyers looking for plaintiffs to file pharmaceutical and medical device cases, but those numbers are dwarfed by the spending for Roundup.

An estimated 18,000 people are suing Bayer across the country, with the most recent jury trial earlier this year in Alameda County Superior Court in California, leading to an award of $55 million as compensation and $2 billion in punitive damages. The award was later reduced, and the California judge tentatively granted Bayer's petition for a new trial over allegations of misconduct from the plaintiffs' lawyers.

A jury hearing the first case in a San Francisco court last summer found against Bayer. The jury awarded the plaintiff $289 million, later reduced to $78 million.

In the first case heard in federal court, again in California, Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California signed off in May on a final judgment of $80 million against the company that was later reduced. Chhabria is presiding over some 900 cases consolidated as multi-district litigation.

It remains to be seen if a recent move by the Environmental Protection Agency to stop what it says is false labeling of the product will change public perception. California warning labels state that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, can cause cancer.

“EPA will no longer approve product labels claiming glyphosate is known to cause cancer – a false claim that does not meet the labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA),” the EPA said in August.

“The State of California’s much criticized Proposition 65 has led to misleading labeling requirements for products, like glyphosate, because it misinforms the public about the risks they are facing.”

St. Louis is also a destination for these cases, as it was originally for talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. The first Roundup trial there was recently postponed.

Many of the Roundup commercials are courtesy of Guardian Legal Network, which has spent the most in 2019 and calls itself an advertising group representing lawyers.

“You should not rely upon any information herein as legal advice,” says a disclaimer at the end of its Invokana commercial.

The organization spent an estimated $15.6 million in the first nine months of 2019 and bought 48,833 ads.

Onder law firm – a St. Louis firm that boasts in talcum powder results – spent the second-most this year through August, with an estimated $4.6 million.  Another St. Louis firm, the Driscoll Firm, spent an estimated $3.4 million.

Rounding out the Roundup top five are the Goldwater Law Firm of Arizona (estimated $3.2 million) and Moore Law Group of Kentucky (estimated $2.7 million).

More has been spent on ads in the Los Angeles TV market (an estimated $941,160) than anywhere else, with New York, Detroit, Chicago and Las Vegas behind.

Viewers in Tucson have seen the most commercials this year, X Ante says. That market has aired 4,570 Roundup ads.

X Ante says locally broadcast TV advertising accounted for 91% percent of the number of total TV ads, though only 33% of estimated spending. The rest of the advertising was on national cable, broadcast or Spanish language networks and during nationally syndicated programming.

As with asbestos and other mass torts, lawyers are also jockeying for position at the top of Google searches, considering there were 150,000 searches of the phrase “Roundup lawsuit” in the first seven months of 2019.

The cost-per-click on a result for the search “Roundup Attorney” is $31.18, X Ante says.

From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien at john.obrien@therecordinc.com.

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Organizations in this Story

Goldwater Law Firm Monsanto Company Onder Law LLC The Driscoll Firm, P.C. X Ante

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