A panel of federal judges announced to centralize all pretrial proceedings of nearly 80 paraquat lawsuits with similar allegations like Roundup litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
Paraquat is banned in many countries but is still sold on the U.S. market with restrictions that mandate special training and certification process for users on the handling of paraquat as a minor amount of paraquat ingestion can result in death. The product liability lawsuits against the manufacturers of paraquat allege that the manufacturers withheld the risks included among the users due to the herbicide exposure.
Plaintiffs have asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to centralize all the paraquat lawsuits in the Northern District of California to avoid duplicate findings and testimony for a common outcome.
Earlier, this week JMPL issued a transfer order considering the oral arguments of the case that took place in May. The order indicates to centralize the paraquat lawsuits in the Southern District of Illinois before Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel.
If the MDL proceedings do not reach the settlements, then the individual paraquat lawsuits would return to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed.
Paraquat is sold throughout the U.S. as a weed and grass killer since 1962. It is widely used on farms and is sold under different brand names through farm supply stores like Gramoxone, Blanco, Cyclone, Helmquat, Bonedry, and others.
Earlier, Bayer announced a five-point plan to deal with potential future Roundup claims following the denial of the proposed preliminary motion plan by Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The plan includes a combination of legal and commercial actions to help the company resolve the ongoing and future Roundup claims effectively.
The denial of the preliminary approval has closed the chances of a fair mechanism for all the parties as it has eliminated the MDL that would have prevented future Roundup claims. Bayer can still deal with future claims with the help of the current plan the company has put forward in court. The spokesperson for Bayer stated that worldwide expert regulators are in support of glyphosate-based herbicides by saying that they are safe for use. Even the brief affirmed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit claimed that glyphosate is not harmful to humans.
The five-point plan:
- Bayer will create and promote a new website that will include relevant scientific studies of Roundup's safety and EPA approved labels. It will help the company to maintain transparency about its products and ensure safety to the users. Users can evaluate the provided studies and labels before using the products.
- Bayer will continue to sell its product in the residential lawn and garden market. The company will discuss the future of glyphosate-based products in the U.S. residential market as most of the claimants alleged the use of Roundup Lawn and Garden products. The discussion would not affect the sale of glyphosate-based products in the market.
- The company will create a scientific advisory panel of external expert scientists to review scientific information regarding the safety of Roundup. The results of these researches will be displayed on the website for better transparency and a detailed record about the safety of the products.
- Bayer will settle existing claims by thoroughly reassessing them. The company will focus on resolving the claims if they are on appropriate terms.
- Continuing the appeals of pending cases to manage future liability risk for the company as it will continue through the legal process. The company has a favorable decision by the U.S. Supreme court and strong legal arguments to deal with the claims and reduce future liability risk.
Roundup, one of the most commonly and widely used weed killers, contains Glyphosate as one of its main ingredients. Glyphosate is a systemic and broad-spectrum herbicide that was patented by a U.S. company, Monsanto, in 1970. Bayer acquired Monsanto on June 7, 2018.
After the patent for Monsanto expired in the U.S. in 2000 and outside the U.S. in 1991, many other manufacturers started marketing their glyphosate products leading to a substantial increase in sales and global usage. The chemical name of glyphosate is N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine, and it blocks an enzyme in the plant, which helps in preparing amino acids and proteins, thus, killing the plants within a few days.
Initially, the users used Roundup as a non-selective herbicide just like paraquat and diquat. People attempted to use glyphosate-based herbicides to row crops, but crop damage problems restricted its use. In 1996 commercial introduction of a glyphosate-resistant soybean resulted in increased use of Roundup throughout the United States. Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" became the best-selling product of the company following the advertisement and the sales increased by around 20% per year between 1990 and 1996.
In 1996, the introduction of a glyphosate-resistant soybean resulted in the growing use of Roundup throughout the United States. Sales of Roundup increased around 20% per year between 1990 and 1996. The product was used in over 160 countries by 2015. It was mostly used on corn, soy, and cotton crops that are genetically designed to resist the chemical. But as of 2012, crops like almond, peach, cantaloupe, onion, cherry, sweet corn, and citrus have been treated by the glyphosate in approximately 5 million acres of California.
Monsanto was accused of false and misleading advertising of glyphosate products in 1996, resulting in a lawsuit by the New York State attorney general. The company claimed that the spray-on glyphosate-based herbicides were non-toxic, safer than table salt, environment friendly, and biodegradable. Later, Monsanto removed the misleading advertisement to settle the case and avoid higher penalties. Some contractors faked the tests conducted on glyphosate along with other pesticides. Craven Laboratories in 1991 and Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories in 1970 conducted toxicology tests by fraudulently analysing samples for residues of glyphosate. Monsanto has even admitted that the studies have since been repeated.
The company is confident enough that the five-point plan will surely manage and address future liability risks of potential Roundup claims.