CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney T. Roe Frazer delivering his closing argument
St. Louis, MO - A Missouri state court jury awarded $1.25 million on Friday to a man claiming he developed cancer from exposure to Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup, ending a string of nine consecutive trial victories in lawsuits involving the company’s popular herbicide.
Friday’s verdict also marks the first time a Missouri jury, in a courthouse just miles from Monsanto’s former US headquarters, returned a plaintiff verdict in a Roundup trial, and the first time any jury has done so outside of California.
Bayer-owned Monsanto said it would appeal, emphasizing that the verdict consisted of compensatory damages only and no punitive damages.
The full trial was recorded and webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
Attorney T. Roe Frazer of Frazer Plc, who represents plaintiff John Durnell, told CVN after the trial while $1.25 million is smaller than awards in other Roundup trials that it came in the context of no settlement offer from Monsanto at all leading up to and during trial.
Frazer also said the verdict carries additional significance because it was the first time jurors heard arguments involving supposed carcinogens in Roundup besides glyphosate, the chemical that played a central role in other Roundup trials to date.
Frazer said the theme of “what’s in the bottle” resonated with jurors along with the live courtroom testimony of key Monsanto witnesses.
“We did not play a bunch of old, boring videos in our liability case against Monsanto; instead of video, the jury got to see almost two days of live cross examination of Monsanto’s top toxicologist, Donna Farmer, and a half day of cross examination of the head of the Global Lawn & Garden market, James Guard,” Frazer said. “Monsanto cannot defend their own documents in a live witness setting.”
He further attributed the verdict to the contrast in the health and safety warnings everyday consumers get purchasing Roundup in retail locations versus more stringent warnings that farmers, licensed applicators, and Monsanto’s own Roundup plant workers have access to.
Frazer said that decision was especially vexing, given that home lawn and garden sales make up a small part of overall Roundup sales.
“We showed the jury that Monsanto’s lawn and garden market is less than 1% of Monsanto’s Roundup revenues, and is only sold in 5 countries in the whole world,” Frazer said. “It is a total mystery why Bayer rolls the dice on such a small revenue market of consumers that get none of the warnings as the agricultural market gets.”
In a statement issued after the trial, Bayer/Monsanto said they stand by the safety of Roundup and emphasized their winning trial record.
“The jury’s verdict is mostly in the company’s favor, and we will seek an appeal of the adverse decision on the one count, which relates to product labelling, and which is inconsistent with the conclusions of expert regulators worldwide and preempted by federal law,” the company stated. “While we have great sympathy for the plaintiff in this case, we are confident that our products can be used safely and are not carcinogenic, consistent with the assessments of expert regulators worldwide and the weight of the extensive body of scientific evidence from more than four decades of studies.”
How juries come down in ongoing and upcoming Roundup trials will soon show to what extent Friday’s verdict is an isolated event.
Closing arguments are underway in San Diego in another Roundup trial being streamed by CVN, and a trial in Philadelphia (where filming of jury trials is not permitted) is also underway.
Additional trials are also scheduled for next month in Missouri and California.
Frazer expressed optimism about the odds for plaintiffs in upcoming cases.
“The tide is turning back as we gain more knowledge about the tobacco-company style defense of Monsanto that brought it finally down after 10 wins in a row,” he said. “We will continue to get better on the plaintiff’s side.”
Durnell was also represented by W. Wylie Blair of Onder Law and Isaac Conner of Manson Johnson Conner.
Monsanto was represented by Shayna Cook of Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum and Booker Shaw of Thompson Coburn.
The trial took place before Judge Timothy Boyer.
The case is captioned John L. Durnell, et al. v. Monsanto Company, et al., case number 1922-CC00221 in Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit in St. Louis.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org