Monsanto Sued Over Alleged Cancer-Causing Weedkiller – Will the corporate giant be found liable?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Monsanto, no stranger to defective product litigation, is being sued yet again based on claims that the company’s weed-killing products cause cancer. This latest suit was brought in Alameda, California, by 40 California residents claiming that Roundup, a product created by Monsanto, caused them to contract non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.

In the complaint, the California residents claim that “Monsanto promoted false data and attacked legitimate research that showed the danger of glyphosate” an ingredient found in Roundup. The complaint also suggested that Monsanto employees penned the studies related to glyphosate, but later published under the guise of academic studies. These “studies” were used by U.S. regulators to make a determination that glyphosate does not cause cancer.

Monsanto is currently facing over 700 lawsuits across the country.

According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” (cancer-causing) to humans. In addition, glyphosate has been determined to cause other health and environmental issues.

Monsanto denies that its product causes cancer and maintains that there is no evidence to support such a claim.

Proving Product Defects

Product liability can be broken down into a number of different claims, including:

  • Design Defects
  • Manufacturing Defects
  • Failure to Warn
  • Breach of Warranty

The Monsanto complaint incorporates all of the above, with the exception of manufacturing defects.

Design Defects

In order for the California plaintiffs to prevail on a claim of design defects, they must prove:

  1. that Monsanto manufactured, distributed or sold Roundup;
  2. the California plaintiffs were harmed;
  3. Roundup was a substantial factor in causing that harm.

If the plaintiffs are successful in proving the above factors, then Monsanto must overcome a determination that the benefits of including glyphosate into Roundup outweighs the risks. In making this determination, a judge or jury must consider:

  1. The gravity of the harm resulting from the use of Roundup;
  2. The likelihood that Roundup would cause cancer;
  3. The feasibility of designing Roundup with alternative ingredients at the time of manufacture;
  4. The cost of the alternative design; and
  5. The disadvantages of the alternative design.

Failure to Warn

To prevail on a failure to warn claim, the plaintiffs must show that Roundup lacked sufficient warning of potential risks or side effects. They must also show that:

  1. Monsanto manufactured, distributed or sold Roundup;
  2. Roundup had potential risks or side-effects that were known or knowable in light of scientific and/or medical knowledge that is generally accepted in the scientific community at the time of manufacture, distribution or sale;
  3. the potential risks or side-effects presented a substantial danger from the use or foreseeable misuse;
  4. ordinary consumers would not have recognized the potential risks or side-effects;
  5. Monsanto failed to adequately warn the consumer of the risks;
  6. The plaintiffs were harmed; and
  7. The lack of sufficient warning was a substantial factor 

Breach of Warranty

Design defects cases also encompass breaches in implied and express warranties for fitness. Generally, these claims come down to whether the product was fit for its purpose and safe to use and that the manufacturer, distributor or seller made claims as to the fitness and safety.

If you have questions about a product liability issue that may have cause you harm, contact the product defect attorneys at J&Y Law for a free consultation.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.