Massive Roundup verdict, in wake of EPA ruling, shows how uncertainty and embarrassing emails can trump science
Legal Newsline | Daniel Fisher
On April 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared glyphosate, the active ingredient in the widely used weedkiller Roundup, to be safe. Less than two weeks later, a California jury ordered Bayer AG to pay $2 billion to a couple who blamed their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Roundup.
How can jurors ignore the nation’s primary regulator, as well as virtually every other national regulatory agency on earth, and decide Roundup caused a relatively common cancer of the bloodstream that even plaintiff medical experts said usually has no identifiable cause?
The answer is juries do it all the time. Dow Chemical paid billions of dollars to end litigation over silicone breast implants manufactured by its Dow Corning joint venture even though the plaintiffs’ scientific theory that silicone was a slow-acting poison was ultimately shown to be bunk.
Other examples include the nausea drug Bendectin, falsely accused of causing birth defects, and asbestos lawsuits over automotive brake pads, which large-scale epidemiological studies have shown do not increase the risk of cancer.
The main tools plaintiff lawyers can use to win these large verdicts are scientific uncertainty and incriminating documents, which when combined can convince jurors to switch the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the defendant.