Monsanto ‘Roundup' Cases Proceed in Calif. Courts

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By Steven M. Sellers

Nov. 30 — Another federal suit is percolating over claims that Monsanto's Roundup herbicide causes cancer, but it will likely face a dismissal motion like that filed by the company in three other pending cases.

The most recent complaint, filed by former coffee farmer Christine Sheppard, alleges her use of Roundup caused her to develop non–Hodgkins lymphoma. (Sheppard v. Monsanto Co., C.D. Cal., No. 15-cv-08632, filed, 11/5/15).

“Ms. Sheppard is a coffee farmer who previously owned and worked a coffee farm in Hawaii,” her counsel, Timothy Litzenburg, of the Miller Firm in Orange, Va., told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 30. “She used Roundup on that farm for many years and was forced to give up the farm after developing non-Hodgkins lymphoma,” Litzenburg said in an e-mail.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Nov. 5, stems from “the plight of farmers, landscapers and gardeners who suffer from lymphoma as a result of their many years of exposure to a product that Monsanto touted as non-toxic,” Litzenburg said.

Sheppard's case joins two similar actions—filed in the Southern and Central Districts of California, respectively—by turf installer Emanuel Giglio and commercial farmer Enrique Rubio (Giglio v. Monsanto Co., S.D. Cal., No. 15-cv-02279, filed, 10/9/15); (Rubio v. Monsanto Co., C.D. Cal., No. 15-cv-07426, filed, 9/22/15).

Like Sheppard, Giglio and Rubio claim their lymphomas were caused by years of occupational exposure to Roundup (30 TXLR 1001, 10/15/15).

A fourth case, a putative class action alleging false advertising and removed to the Central District of California last June, focuses on a related claim that glyphosate targets human enzymes, compromising the immune system (Mirzaie v. Monsanto Co., C.D. Cal., No. 15-cv-04361, removed 6/9/15).

Consolidation of the pending cases is a possibility, according to Litzenburg. “I would not be surprised to see some sort of consolidation in this litigation, but nobody has requested it yet with these cases or any others,” Litzenburg said.

EPA Approval Cited

Monsanto has moved to dismiss the complaints in Rubio, Giglio and Mirzaie, urging that glyphosate has been regulated and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for decades.

The EPA has concluded the herbicide does “not pose unreasonable risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment” when used as directed, Monsanto says.

The company also argues that the plaintiffs' state law failure-to-warn claims are preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. §13 6 et seq.), which dictates labeling requirements for herbicides regulated by the EPA.

WHO Sees Cancer Link

But the plaintiffs contend the data used by Monsanto to support the registration and labeling of Roundup was based on “scientific fraud,” and that the company misrepresented the safety of the product.

Those allegations, they say, are buttressed by a report released last March by an arm of the World Health Organization that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, may cause certain cancers.

The findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer linked non-Hodgkins lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma to glyphosate exposure .

Monsanto strongly objected to the IARC findings when they were issued, questioning both their accuracy and transparency.

The company's website also states that the IARC conclusion “conflicts with the overwhelming consensus by regulatory bodies and science organizations around the world, like the U.S. EPA, which have found no evidence of carcinogenicity.”

Decisions on the motions to dismiss are pending, according to court records.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington at ssellers@bna.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hayes at phayes@bna.com.