Monsanto’s streak of defense wins in Roundup trials continues unabated—and this time, the jurors didn’t even get a chance to deliberate.
A Missouri judge said Thursday that he would grant Monsanto’s motion for a directed verdict after the close of evidence presented by plaintiff Mark McCostlin but before defense attorneys presented their case, according to trial coverage by Courtroom View Network. The trial, which began on Sept. 14, gives Monsanto another pivotal win in the ongoing litigation over whether Roundup, a pesticide, causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Brian May dismissed the jurors Thursday.
“It was a decision that wasn’t made lightly, and took a lot of work, and I don’t take joy in doing it, but I have to follow the law as I see the law,” he said, according to CVN’s coverage.
Although May did not give his reasons from the bench, Monsanto’s motion focused on the plaintiff’s specific causation expert, Dr. Barry Boyd, who testified that Roundup may have contributed to the risk that McCostlin would get non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he did in 2017 at the age of 58.
“Indeed, plaintiffs have not even presented evidence that McCostlin’s Roundup use contributed to cause his NHL; rather they have only presented insufficient evidence that his Roundup use contributed to his risk of developing NHL,” wrote one of Monsanto’s lawyers, Erik Hansell, of Husch Blackwell in St. Louis. “Dr. Boyd offered nothing more than an opinion that exposure to Roundup increases risk of NHL, and he expressly stopped short of opining that McCostlin’s Roundup use actually contributed to cause his cancer.”
In a statement, Bayer, which owns Monsanto, said the verdict is its ninth courtroom victory in a row. In the past two years, Monsanto has won seven Roundup verdicts in California, Missouri and Oregon. Bayer cited another verdict on Sept. 1 in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois that involved Roundup and polychlorinated biphenyls.
“These outcomes are consistent with the extensive body of scientific research on glyphosate-based herbicides over four decades, as well as the assessments of the EPA and other leading health regulators worldwide which support the conclusion that Roundup is not carcinogenic and can be used safely,” Bayer’s statement said. “We continue to stand behind the safety of Roundup and will confidently defend the safety of our products as well as our good faith actions in any future litigation.”
Plaintiffs lawyers said they would appeal the decision.
“It’s unfortunate that pretrial rulings prevented jurors in this case from seeing and hearing all of the evidence,” wrote Majed Nachawati, founding partner of Dallas-based Nachawati Law Group, who represented McCostlin, along with Demetrios Zacharopoulos, of Flint Cooper in Edwardsville, Illinois. “We are committed to this cause and will continue the fight on behalf of the many cancer victims who deserve justice.”
‘An Absence of Evidence’
The defense wins are a big shift from Roundup verdicts before the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in $2 billion, $289 million and $80 million, all in California.
In 2020, Bayer agreed to pay $10 billion to resolve an estimated 120,000 claims over Roundup, which has been on the market since 1974. But thousands of Roundup cases remain unsettled.
In the motion for a directed verdict, filed on Tuesday, Monsanto also argued that McCostlin’s claims were time-barred because he first learned about Roundup’s alleged link to cancer from a TV ad in 2017, yet didn’t sue until 2019.
“An ad that McCostlin saw, linking his exact injury to a specific chemical that McCostlin himself says he was exposed to, and urging a lawsuit against an identified defendant, is enough for the statute of limitations to start running,” Hansell wrote.
Plaintiffs attorneys also presented no evidence justifying punitive damages, he wrote.
“The bottom line is that there is an absence of evidence that Monsanto’s behavior was willful, wanton, fraudulent, or malicious,” he wrote. “In fact, the evidence presented shows the opposite: the company witnesses that plaintiffs have introduced were uniformly conscientious scientists who believed deeply in the safety of glyphosate and Roundup based upon their review of the data and studies conducted by Monsanto and others.”
Wednesday’s trial almost didn’t happen after the plaintiff’s lawyers moved to disqualify special master Robert Blitz, of Blitz Bardgett & Deutsch, because of his “close relationship” with James Bennett, of Dowd Bennett in Clayton, Missouri. In particular, the motion argued that Bennett worked with Blitz on three separate matters, including a $790 million settlement for government entities in St. Louis against the National Football League and the Los Angeles Rams. Monsanto’s lawyers called the request unnecessary and too late.
Plaintiffs lawyers later dropped their disqualification motion after May said the soonest he could reschedule the trial would be Sept. 17, 2025.