If what just happened in a California courtroom is a sign of things to come, executives from the agricultural company Monsanto (acquired recently by pharmaceutical giant Bayer) are sweating proverbial bullets.
Things didn’t turn out as hoped for by company principals in a case that a CNN report termed last week as “groundbreaking.” That case focused on a plaintiff’s successful personal injury challenge in an epic product liability matter that the network states “could set a massive precedent for thousands of other cases against Monsanto.”
From Monsanto’s perspective, things couldn’t have concluded in more dire fashion. A jury awarded a cancer-ridden school groundskeeper $40 million in compensatory damages after finding that his illness owed substantially to his prolonged use of the company’s globally known weedkiller Roundup.
And then it tacked on a stunning $250 million by way of punitive damages assessed because of Monsanto’s failure to reasonably warn consumers of the link between product use and heightened cancer risks.
Reportedly, thousands of additional cases are lined up in state courts across the country that allege similar claims. Hundreds more are pending in so-called multidistrict litigation before a single federal court. CNN duly notes that, while those are somewhat similar to class-action claims, they differ importantly in that “each case within an MDL gets its own trial – with its own outcome.”
Many plaintiffs might prefer pursuing their claims in the state venues, given that such cases are sometimes more quickly tried and concluded than are matters in the federal system.
Unsurprisingly, Monsanto disputes the California verdict and any adverse findings from Roundup-centered studies.
The product liability litigation trail ahead for Monsanto will likely be long and arduous.