Posted on April 11, 2019 in General, Product Liability
Bayer-Monsanto is one of the largest corporations in the
United States, and the company faces a reasonable amount of public scrutiny due
to the nature of many of their products and those products’ intended uses. One
of the most popular products is the weed killer Roundup, which has recently
become the subject of several lawsuits against Monsanto, all claiming the
substance causes cancer with consistent exposure. Recently, the second judge in less than eight months
found Monsanto responsible for Roundup causing cancer.
Lawsuits Against Monsanto
Roundup is a very effective weed killer, but it is also
incredibly dangerous when it comes to human contact. Individuals who must use
Roundup for work in agriculture generally face the highest level of risk. For
years, Monsanto denied allegations that its flagship product caused cancer, but
various lawsuits in recent years indicate this is not the case. In the case of
Hardeman v. Monsanto in California, a federal court in San Francisco found that
the glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup caused the plaintiff Hardeman to develop
non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Jurors awarded $80 million in damages to Hardeman.
This ruling and others against Monsanto allege the company
knew about the harmful risks of Roundup but continued to sell the product while
hiding this information from the public. The ruling alleges that Monsanto went
so far as to convince Environmental Protection Agency officials to look the
other way when it came to compelling the company to notify the public of the
risks of Roundup use.
Known Risks of Roundup
Various studies across the country have confirmed what the
lawsuits against Monsanto allege: the company’s Roundup product is extremely
dangerous to humans, potentially causing various types of cancer, altering
metabolic processes, and causing long-term medical complications in those
exposed to glyphosate, one of the main ingredients in Roundup. The Department
of Agriculture reported that in 2014, professional agriculturalists sprayed
more than 240 million pounds of glyphosate.
This substance can contaminate the air, water, and food
supplies. The most commonly affected crops include soybeans and corn, but it
also appears in oat products due to harvesters using glyphosate as a desiccant
or drying agent, allowing a faster harvest of oat plants but potentially
allowing the glyphosate to persist into finished food products. The
Environmental Working Group recently reported glyphosate traces in virtually
all oat-based breakfast products sold in most grocery stores, including those marketed
to children such as breakfast cereals.
Understanding Product Liability Claims
When a product manufacturer releases a dangerous or defective product, an end user can file a product liability claim against the manufacturer if the product causes an injury or other damages. Unlike personal injury claims that hinge on proving a defendant’s negligence, product liability claims simply require proving the product in question is defective and the defective nature of the product caused the plaintiff’s damages. A plaintiff does not need to prove that a manufacturer was negligent in the design, production, or marketing of the product. It is, however, possible the manufacturer will need to prove it was not negligent to avoid liability for claimants’ damages. A product can be defective by design, due to a production error, or misrepresentations and/or inaccuracies in marketing materials for the product.
In the cases against Monsanto, various plaintiffs alleged
similar damages from similar causes, and scientific research supports these
claims. These lawsuits have not only damaged Monsanto’s reputation and led to
noticeable drops in share prices, but also indicate that more lawsuits against
the company will likely appear in the near future. Product manufacturers have a
moral and legal obligation to disclose potential risks of their products to
customers and abide by all applicable regulations. Injured consumers can hold
these companies accountable through product liability claims.