“Bayer Deal Pays Roundup Plaintiff to Keep Fighting in Court.”
“Bayer Accused of ‘Pay to Appeal Scheme’ by Roundup Lawyers.”
“Bayer entered into an agreement that essentially pays a Georgia man to keep fighting the company in court.”
See links to referenced news reports at the bottom of this article.
While MTN does not consider the matters covered in this article to be anymore than evidence of Bayer/Monsanto’s desperation to garner any leverage possible in settlement negotiations, we nonetheless thought this story was bizarre enough to merit coverage.
Jim Onder, as well as other major players in the Roundup litigation will be speaking at the MTN Four Day Mass Tort Immersion Course June 11th – June 14th (register here). Attendees will be provided with up to date substantive information on the Roundup settlement negotiations. While news worthy under the category of “bizarre,” the matter covered herein should not be considered substantive. We are covering a side show. Jim and others will give you a peek inside the big tent at our upcoming course.
Bayer/Monsanto has lost numerous trials in the Roundup litigation. The defendants have filed appeals; however, according to reports, Bayer does not believe they are likely to prevail in the appeal in the Circuits where they have pending appeals.
HERE’S WHERE THINGS GET BIZARRE
Now comes the case of Dr. John Carson. Dr. Carson was represented by a relatively young attorney, Ashleigh Madison, in his case filed in Georgia. (4:17-cv-00237-RSB-CLR Southern District of Georgia (Savannah).
From a review of Pacer, it appears that Madison would be accurately described as a general practitioner. We found no appellate cases in our review of cases in which Madison was listed as Plaintiffs counsel. While Madison appears to be a very competent attorney, her apparent lack of appellate experience is concerning considering what is at stake. The Bayer/Monsanto legal team on the other hand is comprised of high flying legal eagles with ample appellate experience.
The lower court Judge in the Carson case found preemption on certain claims brought by Carson; however, other claims survived. One might think, with some claims having survived the lower court’s ruling, the case would have continued to proceed towards trial; then something strange happened.
Although we can find no reference to a settlement in the Notice of Appeal filed in the lower court case, recent news reports inform us that a settlement was reached in which Bayer pays Carson certain undisclosed amounts now and potentially more at a later date.
Despite no particulars regarding the exact amount Carson would receive, it appears that Carson receiving any amount is contingent on his filing of the appeal Bayer wants filed.
It seems that it would be difficult for any Federal Court to find that a genuine adversary case and controversy exist, when the first party has paid the second party to bring an action against the first party. Absent a genuine adversary case and controversy, no Federal Jurisdiction can exist, appellate or otherwise per Article III Section II.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
What we also find puzzling is the fact that on appeal, Carson v. Monsanto Co., 21-10994, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Atlanta) another young Plaintiffs attorney who appears to be less seasoned than Madison, was added to the appellate team. It just so happens that the new attorney added to the team to ostensibly fight Carson’s appeal, appears to be John Carson Jr., the son of the Plaintiff, Dr. John Carson Sr. Like Madison, John Carson Jr. appears to be a perfectly competent attorney; however, we do not see how he brings any additional muscle to a high stake appellate case.
If the Bayer/Monsanto legal team thought their scheme would go unnoticed by their equals (or betters) from the Plaintiffs’ side, they were quickly disappointed.
David J. Wool, Esq. of ANDRUS WAGSTAFF, P.C., R. Brent Wisner, Esq. of BAUM HEDLUND ARISTEI & GOLDMAN, P.C and Jennifer A. Moore, Esq. of MOORE LAW GROUP, PLLC sent a letter to the appeals court (see copy here) shortly after the appeal docket was opened. The letter was followed by a formal motion to intervene.
If Bayer/Monsanto really wants to see their scheme through to the end, it is already clear that they will not do so by out gunning their opposition on appeal. They will have to face the best and brightest of the Plaintiffs’ bar in a battle that is likely to get ugly.
MTN has downloaded the most relevant documents pertaining to this matter from PACER and will be happy to provide any Plaintiff firm interested in this matter with copies.
Lower Court Case: 4:17-cv-00237-RSB-CLR Southern District of Georgia (Savannah)
Appeal: 0:2021-10994 U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit
The Montana Federal Court ruling should put an end to the EPA’s long-standing practice of engaging in willful scientific illiteracy, in which the EPA cherry picks the scientific literature it considers when clearing labeling for herbicides and pesticides, absent warnings of specific diseases and injuries shown by the weight of the scientific literature to be caused by a specific product.
If history is to record a single positive outcome from the Trump Presidency, that outcome may very well be the administration’s having taken a common and long-standing EPA practice, one step too far, giving the Judicial branch the opening it needed to put an end to the practice altogether.
The Montana ruling, as well as the Biden EPA’s position (essentially agreeing with Plaintiffs) is a significant positive development for Plaintiffs in the RoundUp, the emerging Paraquat Litigation, and is likely to contribute to MTN’s prior predictions becoming reality. More on the Montana case and the impact on RoundUp and other litigations later in this article..
MTN AND OTHERS PREDICTED THIS
MTN, as well as others, predicted (and hoped) that the Biden administration would roll back the EPA’s 2020 “ruling” on Glyphosate, which has been a major weapon for Defendants in settlement negotiations, as well as preemption arguments in the RoundUp litigation.
It appears that our predictions are in the process of coming true and in a fashion with much further reaching implications than expected.
(In a forward-looking prediction) MTN recently stated that we believed that litigation involving FIFRA-regulated products (pesticides, herbicides, etc.) would become as common as drug and medical device litigation. MTN has conducted two Whiteboard Wednesday sessions on this topic in the last month, with a specific focus on Paraquat.
First time attendees and returning Alumni of MTN’s upcoming Four Day Immersion Couse (June 11th-June 14th) will enjoy the benefits of a “deep dive” into all things FIFRA litigation as we intend to use this topic as a teaching tool in the June course.
EPA CHERRY PICKING DID NOT BEGIN WITH TRUMP
There is no better example of the dichotomy found in EPA determinations versus other authorities’ findings regarding the injuries and diseases potentially caused by a FIFRA-regulated product than is shown in a comparison of the CDCs statements, which list a host of injuries and diseases caused by Paraquat. Conversely, EPA-cleared Paraquat labels do not warn of any of the more serious injuries and diseases listed by the CDC.
MTN predictions arose from five primary beliefs/theories:
The EPA has engaged in “cherry picking” scientific evidence for decades, clearing labels for FIFRA-regulated products that fail to warn of injuries and diseases for which an honest and rational review of the scientific literature would require. The EPA had “gotten away” with this practice for years, largely due to a lack of significant media and public attention.
The Trump EPA arguably expanded the EPA’s practice of engaging in intentional scientific illiteracy. There is no better example of the foregoing than the EPA’s actions related to glyphosate (RoundUp), which provided one of the most potent playing cards available to defendants in the RoundUp litigation (including in settlement negotiations).
In order to go further down the rabbit hole of intentional scientific illiteracy than at any time before, it was necessary for the Trump EPA to change its rules (vs hoping that its rulings did not draw much attention) to formally make the long-employed practice of “scientific cherry picking” lawful, or at least have the appearance of being lawful.
MTN believed, that if Trump did not get reelected, the referenced Trump-era EPA rule change would be rolled back by Biden (or any Democrat that was elected), or declared unlawful by a Federal Court.
That if #4 occurred via litigation (Judicial Ruling), the EPA would not only no longer be able to enforce the Trump-era rule, but the agency would also have to cease the practice of cherry picking the science altogether.
More simply stated, the EPA got away with cherry picking the science for years, the Trump EPA took it too far, the Courts stepped in, now the EPA will no longer be able to go back to the lighter version of intentional scientific illiteracy employed pre-Trump.
The foregoing coupled with the fact that:
Through a twist of temporal fate, every single Restricted Use Pesticide (all RUP FIFRA regulated products) is up for the mandatory 15-year labeling and science review the EPA is required to conduct by law. The EPA, now absent the ability to cherry pick the science and rubber stamp the labels submitted by the makers of FIFRA regulated products, the EPA will have little choice but to order new and additional warnings regarding specific diseases shown to be caused by specific products, by an honest and complete review of the scientific literature.
The Montana ruling should arguably cause the EPA to voluntary withdraw all statements/rulings and labels approved post the implementation of the Trump era unlawful rule (including Round Up) and issue new rulings statements, approvals (and disapprovals) based on an honest and complete review of the scientific literature.
DOES THE MONTANA ACTION MOOT THE TRUMP EPA’s ROUNDUP RULING?
Now it appears that the Trump EPA’s attempt to play “Fairy God Mother” to Bayer/Monsanto may have long term negative impact for the Big Pharma/Big Aggie player. Absent the past scientific practices previously engaged in by the EPA (for decades), the agency is likely to have no choice but to require Bayer/Monsanto and other such entities, to add long overdue specific warnings to their FIFRA-regulated product labels.” New warnings lead new failure to warn litigation.”
WHY DID BAYER/MONSANTO NEED THE EPA RULING ON GLYHOSPHATE
“A modification to registration of a currently registered product that may be accomplished under the notification or non-notification provisions of § 152.46 and any procedures issued thereunder. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, compliance with this subpart is required if the Administrator has, by written notice under § 152.46, determined that the modification may not be accomplished by notification or non-notification. 40 CFR § 152.81 (b)(5)”
Prior to 2014, the language of 40 CFR § 152.81 left wiggle room for defendants to argue that FIFRA precluded makers of FIFRA regulated products from making unilateral changes to their product labels (like the CBE process and NDA drugs). Defendants took advantage of the lack of clarity in § 152.81 and convinced many courts that changes to their labels could only be made with the prior approval of the EPA. In 2014, the EPA changed § 152.81 to make it clear that changes under § 152.46 be unilaterally made by registrants so long as the EPA had not specifically and expressly ruled that the given change could not be made. The only other general restriction is that the change can not serve to “negatively impact the environment” per § 152.46.
Bayer/Monsanto in all probability was keenly aware of the changes in § 152.81 and thus needed the EPA to make an express statement holding that they could not add a warning related to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to their Round Up labeling.
Despite the contrary findings of some Courts, FIFRA never prevented Bayer/Monsanto from unliterally making changes to their label to include a warning of a link between the product and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“The Court declares that EPA unlawfully made the Final Rule effective immediately on publication in the Federal Register, Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information 86 Fed. Reg. 469 (Jan. 6, 2021); and The Court declares, therefore, that the Final Rule is ineffective until 30 days from its January 6, 2021, date of publication in the Federal Register.”
On April 30, 2018, The Trump EPA invoked 5 U.S.C. § 301 “general housekeeping rule” to propose and implement the challenged rule:
5 U.S.C. § 301 holds that: The head of an Executive department or military department may prescribe regulations for the government of his department, the conduct of its employees, the distribution and performance of its business, and the custody, use, and preservation of its records, papers, and property. This section does not authorize withholding information from the public or limiting the availability of records to the public.
These are some of the Plaintiffs who also brought cases seeking the same relief sought and granted by the Montana Court. STATE OF NEW YORK, STATE OF CALIFORNIA, STATE OF CONNECTICUT, STATE OF DELAWARE, STATE OF ILLINOIS, STATE OF MAINE, STATE OF MARYLAND, COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, STATE OF MINNESOTA, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, STATE OF NEW MEXICO, STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, STATE OF OREGON, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, STATE OF VERMONT, STATE OF WASHINGTON, STATE OF WISCONSIN, KING COUNTY WASHINGTON, CITY OF CHICAGO, CITY OF LOS ANGELES, and CITY OF NEW YORK
The recent EPA actions related to Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease have caught the attention of the plaintiff bar, resulting in firms actively pursuing these cases.
It may come as a surprise to some that a significant number of “one off” cases have been brought, alleging injury caused by a FIFRA-regulated product, resulting in verdicts for plaintiffs- without reliance on any predicate action taken by the EPA.
The recent attention attracted by the EPA actions related to Paraquat should be a wake-up call to the plaintiffs’ bar. Paraquat is the tip of a very large iceberg. Plaintiffs’ firms should be reviewing cases for almost every product on the EPA’s Restricted Use List (RUP) for a host of injury categories specific to each product and product category.
Mass Tort Nexus will be hosting a series of Whiteboard Wednesday sessions beginning on Wednesday, April 21st (register here) intended to provide plaintiff firms with the background and education necessary to acquire and represent plaintiffs in the Paraquat litigation, as well as litigations against makers of other FIFRA-regulated products that are ripe and awaiting action.
In the first session we will cover:
How and why the makers of FIFRA-regulated products (including Paraquat) have systematically failed to warn with specificity regarding adverse events (injuries) known to be caused by their products. The why is simple, the plaintiffs’ bar has yet to step up to protect the millions of people injured by these products. It is time to dispense with the one-off cases and show the industry the force for change that can be brought about by mass litigation, Paraquat and beyond!
Why no EPA action is needed for plaintiffs suffering from one of these adverse events, in order for said plaintiff to prevail in product liability action against the maker of a FIFRA-regulated product that has failed to warn with specificity (see case example below Ferebee v. Chevron Chemical Co).
Why changes in 40 C.F.R. § 152.81, in combination with the plain language of 40 CFR § 152.46 no longer support the reasoning of those Courts that have found preemption of state law Failure to Warn claims under FIFRA.
“FIFRA does not preempt state-law actions for damages. Section 136v(b) prohibits states from imposing labeling “requirements” in addition to, or different from, those imposed under FIFRA. While the term “requirements” may encompass common law duties in some contexts, the text, legislative history, and purposes of FIFRA demonstrate that Congress had no intent that the use of the term “requirements” in section 136v(b) would extinguish state law damages actions. When section 136v(b) was enacted in 1972, state law actions against pesticide manufacturers for failure to warn were a commonplace and uncontroversial feature of the legal landscape. No evidence from the text or legislative history of FIFRA suggests that Congress had any intent to extinguish those actions or that Congress even considered doing so. Indeed, Congress amended FIFRA in 1972 out of increasing concern for the human health and the environmental effects of pesticides such as DDT. Given that FIFRA establishes no private damages remedy for those injured by pesticides, it would be astonishing that, without any discussion, Congress could have intended to deprive injured persons of all means of relief.”
6. Why the approval of a label by the EPA is no more conclusive of the adequacy of the warnings provided therein, than is the approval of a label submitted to the FDA by a drug maker. The duty to provide adequate warnings (with specificity) always falls upon the manufacturer of the product, without regard to whether the product is regulated by the FDCA or FIFRA (EPA).
“When a pesticide is registered, the manufacturer must submit the proposed label to the EPA for approval. The label must be “adequate to protect health and the environment,” see 7 U.S.C. § 136(q)(1)(G), and “likely to be read and understood” See 7 U.S.C. § 136(q)(1)(E).”
“When an environmental hazard exists from the pesticide, precautionary language stating the nature of the hazard and the appropriate precautions to avoid potential accident, injury, or damage is required. § 156.10(h)(2)(ii).”
*Note: The word ‘pesticide’ is used generally in regulation and statute to describe all FIFRA regulated products.
BACKGROUND FOR FIRST SESSION
The remainder of this article, we will review Ferebee v. Chevron Chemical Co. and why those Courts that have followed the reasoning of Ferebee “got it right” and why those Courts that found contrary to Ferebee may have to revisit their rulings in light of the changes to 40 CFR § 152.81 combined with the EPA’s state reasons for implementing said changes.
Ferebee v. Chevron Chemical Co.
The Ferebee case was initially filed by Mr. Ferebee and then continued as a survival action after Mr. Ferebee’s pulmonary fibrosis caused his death prior to the case reaching trial.
Richard Ferebee was an agricultural worker at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), an installation of the United States Department of Agriculture located in Beltsville, Maryland.
The complaint alleged that Mr. Ferebee contracted pulmonary fibrosis resulting from long-term skin exposure to dilute solutions of paraquat.
The lower court denied defendants’ FIFRA-based preemption motions as well as other motions filed by Defendants to avoid the case reaching a jury.
At trial, the attorneys representing the Ferebee family put forth two experts in support of their contention that Paraquat was the cause of Mr. Ferebee’s pulmonary fibrosis. The first witness was a Pulmonologist that treated Mr. Ferebee prior to his death. The second was a physician employed by the National Institute of Health.
The Ferebee attorneys further argued that while the Paraquat label did contain some general health warnings, the fact that Paraquat was known to potentially cause pulmonary fibrosis posed a duty on the Defendant to specifically warn, relevant to pulmonary fibrosis.
Chevron’s expert witnesses testified intra alia; that although Paraquat could cause pulmonary fibrosis, it was not possible for Mr. Ferebee to have been exposed via skin absorption in amounts sufficient to cause pulmonary fibrosis.
The jury found Chevron’s arguments unavailing and rendered judgement and award in favor of the Ferebee family.
One might think that post-Ferebee, all makers of Paraquat products would have filed original or supplemental registrations with the FDA, adding a specific warning related to pulmonary fibrosis, to their labels.
Despite the verdict in Ferebee, as well as other cases, including cases arising from pulmonary fibrosis to this day, not a single maker of a Paraquat product provides a warning specific to pulmonary fibrosis, to date.
Additionally, despite the CDC listing all the following adverse events potentially caused by Paraquat exposure, not a single maker of the products specifically warns of any of these adverse events in their labeling:
Acute Kidney failure
Fast heart rate
Injury to the heart
Lung scarring (evolves more quickly than when small to medium amounts have been ingested)
Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
Respiratory (breathing) failure, possibly leading to death
If a person survives the toxic effects of Paraquat poisoning, long-term lung damage (scarring) is highly likely. Other long-term effects may also occur, including kidney failure, heart failure, and esophageal strictures (scarring of the swallowing tube that makes it hard for a person to swallow).
The CDC also lists the exposure routes that can lead to these injuries which include: inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact.
Bear in mind, this is just the CDC list of injuries known to be caused by Paraquat, no warning on the label of any product. There are 221 other RUP categories of products known to cause injuries of various types.
40 CFR § 152.46 provides a process similar to the Changes Being Affected (CBE) process (pharmaceuticals), which allows the registrant to unilaterally make a change to their labeling prior to the EPA approving the change. A registrant may make a change to their label and begin marketing the subject product under the new labeling as soon as the EPA receives notification of the change (before the EPA approves or disapproves the change). As is true of the CBE process, the EPA has the power to instruct the registrant to remove or alter the unilaterally implemented change after the fact, if the agency finds reason to do so.
Prior to 2014, 40 CFR § 152.81 included a list of the types of changes a registrant could make without prior approval pursuant to § 152.46. Citing the fact that the EPA never intended for the list contained in § 152.81 to be all inclusive, the EPA began the process of removing the list from the language of § 152.81 in November of 2010. The list was removed from §152.81 in 2014.
Currently, read in combination, 40 CFR § 152.46 and §152.81 allows registrants to make changes pursuant to 40 CFR § 152.46 so long as the changes, “…have no potential to cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.”
“Unreasonable adverse effects on the environment” are defined as, “any unreasonable risk to man (emphasis added) or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.” Id. § 136(bb) and 7 U.S.C. § 136a(c)(5).
Considering the foregoing, in combination with the SCOTUS decision in Albrecht, makers of FIFRA-regulated products are likely to have little success in arguing that any obstacle (impossibility) exists with regard to adding a “more specific warning” related to specific diseases and injuries known to be caused by their products.
Bayer-Monsanto’s proposed $2 billion settlement for future victims continues to face harsh criticism from current plaintiffs, cancer victim advocates, and many others. The plan would allow the company to continue to market and sell glyphosate products while limiting their liability toward those whose lives they devastate.
The settlement, which is only for people who have not yet been diagnosed with cancer or who have not yet retained an attorney has not been approved by the court. We are among the many parties that submitted objections. As it stands, we are hopeful that the settlement proposal will not be accepted by the court.
Some of the plans highlights (or lowlights, as it were) include:
The four-year plan includes $1.35 billion for class member compensation; $210 million for diagnostic services; $55 million for research; and $170 million for a legal fund.
Under this plan, Bayer establishes trust through community healthcare centers, signs people to the class so they can get free healthcare services, then forwards them through the settlement process when they are diagnosed with NHL. NHL victims, who are targeted because they are itinerant, who lack exposure to traditional media, and who do not speak English as a first language, are told they can get $5,000 immediately if they accept. This is the equivalent of dangling a glass of water in front of a person dying of thirst without telling them they could have access to a well.
Class members can qualify for $5k-$200k. However, the tier system is structured so that the vast majority of class members would receive $5,000.
The settlement severely limits additional recourse for class members, even if they are released from the class. It also imposes a four-year stay on filings.
It establishes a Science Advisory Panel, chosen in large part by Bayer-Monsanto, and a research fund to conduct “research” that we feel will likely be skewed toward the corporation’s interests. Those findings can then be used against plaintiffs in the MDL or in future litigation.
It establishes an “education program” funded by Bayer that will, no doubt, include pro-Bayer propaganda.
It gives Bayer-Monsanto the ability to include on Roundup labels “a reference to information regarding whether exposure to Roundup causes NHL.” There is no question that the “information” they choose will be skewed in their favor.
There are many other horrible provisions of the proposed settlement, and we believe strongly that the majority of the plan is unfair to victims. It is a blatant attempt to stop victims from joining MDLs or other litigations that would compensate them more fairly.
We know — and Bayer knows — that tens of thousands of hard-working people, if not more, will be diagnosed with glyphosate-related non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the coming years. The proposal fails on many fronts to pay adequate restitution to the vast majority of victims and does a huge disservice to thousands of American families who put their trust in Monsanto, only to suffer due to the corporation’s lies and deceit.
We will continue to follow this proposal, and to fight it at every opportunity.
As courts begin to open again and new trial dates are established, plaintiffs’ attorneys will continue to push Bayer-Monsanto toward a fair settlement.
*Jim Onder is speaking at our (in-person/live) Mass Tort Nexus course June 11-14 in Fort Lauderdale. He will be updating us on the state of settlement for both Talc and RoundUp. Jim holds the largest number of cases in both of these litigations. He will also be contributing information at our course, regarding the emerging litigation, Paraquat. Seating is very limited.
Johnson & Johnson continues to avoid responsibility for cruelly and intentionally destroying women’s lives by profiting from cancer-causing talc. Imerys Talc America’s bankruptcy plan has now become a pawn for J&J’s attempts to sidestep indemnification.
Just how the dust (or powder, in this case) will settle is not yet clear, but the initial disbursement plan for $233 million in Imerys assets has gained the 75% vote needed to pass.
Johnson & Johnson is eager to join the Imerys bankruptcy and obtain a channeling injunction, so as to cut off future liabilities. A channeling injunction would enable J&J to fund a trust for the benefit of past and future claimants. Thereafter, the sole claim would be against the trust.By cutting off future liability, J&J would have a finite dollar amount established with which to pay cancer claims, as opposed to being asked to write a blank check. They and their shareholders would like to see these claims to essentially go away. However, the current amount they have suggested they would pay is inadequate to compensate past and future victims.
As a threat to force acceptance of a parsimonious offer, J&J is threatening bankruptcy.
Texas Two-Step Threat
In a move that’s in line with the unscrupulous tactics they have exercised for decades, J&J are making what is likely an idle threat to declare bankruptcy in a dicey back-handed method called the “Texas two-step.” If successful, they hope to discharge their liability from talc lawsuits throughout the country.
What is the Texas Two-Step?
The State of Texas has a divisive merger statute. Essentially it allows a company to divide into two separate entities.
Step 1: J&J can, in theory, split off some of their assets along with their talc liabilities into a separate inadequately funded entity in Texas.
J&J could attempt to change the domicile of that entity to North Carolina, then file bankruptcy to discharge liabilities.
While we would like to believe this is another smokescreen, the threat may be real. Three asbestos manufacturers have used this tactic, and their cases have yet to be heard in appellate court. Johnson & Johnson has a long history of unethical, self-serving behavior in their attempts to minimize compensation for victims. We’re keeping an eye on the situation and carefully weighing the validity of this and any other scare tactic they present.
We are up against a corporation that simply refuses to take responsibility. As such, we have yet to come up with a final outcome with which everybody is satisfied. We are working daily toward that end.
After nearly a year and a half of delays due to Covid, courts are slowly reopening and trial dates are being established. Several trials are now on the docket for later this summer and beyond.
Every time Johnson & Johnson has to step foot in a courtroom, it puts them under increasing pressure to settle. Their losses have already cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, and their shareholders are eager to put the bad publicity and risk behind them. We are doing all we can to ensure their tactics to avoid responsibility will fail and these trials will push them closer to a settlement.
MTN will conduct our first in a series of “Whiteboard Wednesdays” related to the current Paraquat litigation on Wednesday, April 21st from 2:00pm -4:00pm EST.
Although our initial Whiteboard Wednesday session will focus on Paraquat, future sessions will focus more broadly on litigation involving other products regulated by the EPA as well as State agencies that generally fall under the auspices of FIFRA as well as each State’s relevant laws.
WHY LOOK BEYOND PARAQUAT
MTN research has concluded that the recent EPA action related to Paraquat is likely to be the first in a series of actions related to Restricted Use Products (RUP), that are likely to give rise product liability/personal injury litigations resulting from direct exposure (farmers and agricultural workers), as well as chemical trespass (individuals who reside near farms exposed via overspray and drift).
WHY DO WE BELIEVE PARAQUAT IS THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG?
The EPA is required to review every RUP products safety and labeling at least once every 15 years. As it turns out, every single RUP product on the market is up for the 15-year review by or before October 1, 2022. The new restrictions, warnings, and instructions relevant to Paraquat were a result of the “15 year” review of this single product. Given the heightened awareness of the issues of overspray and drift, we have every reason to believe that the 15-year reviews of other RUP Herbicides and Pesticides, will result in additional EPA actions like those relevant to Paraquat.
More simply stated, changes in the way these dangerous products are handled and used are overdue, and despite industry efforts to forestall their fate, time has run out.
Prudent Plaintiffs firms should begin developing broad expertise in this species of litigation now, as we believe these litigations may become as common as drug and medical device litigation.
RESTRICTED USE PRODUCTS DEFINED
Restricted Use Products or RUPs (as opposed to General Use Products) are not available for purchase or use by the general public. RUPs have the potential to cause unreasonable adverse effects to the environment and injury to applicators or bystanders without added restrictions. The “Restricted Use” classification restricts a product, or its uses, to use by a certified applicator or someone under the certified applicator’s direct supervision. See detailed information on the restricted use classification: 40 CFR 152.160 – 152.175.
SIMILARITIES TO ASBESTOS
On first blush, it would be reasonable to conclude that the Paraquat and other potential RUP litigations would be like the current Roundup litigation, or possibly the Agent Orange litigation; however, MTN is of a different opinion. Our research concludes that this litigation as well as likely future litigations involving RUPs bear more similarity to the Asbestos litigation and general pharmaceutical product litigations. We will explain our conclusions in the upcoming Whiteboard Wednesday as well as why it is important to approach these litigations with the proper “historical” and “commonality” perspective. Register Now!
IF YOU COULD ROLL BACK TIME
As a plaintiff’s lawyer, if you could roll back time and be involved in the asbestos/mesothelioma litigation at the emerging phase, would you? Of course, you would!
Having rolled back time, would you also take the time and put forth the effort to learn everything you possibly could to retain and best represent your asbestos/mesothelioma clients? Of course, you would!
Will you be kicking yourself in the future if you fail to realize that the current Paraquat litigation has far more in common with the asbestos/mesothelioma litigation than you might think, and thus fail to act now to gain the knowledge and information required to be on the forefront of this litigation? Of course, you will! Avoid kicking yourself in the future, it hurts and kicking oneself should never be on any to do list. Join MTN for our first in a series of Whiteboard Wednesdays. Register Now!
PRIMER FOR FIRST PARAQUAT LITIGATION WBW SESSION: WHAT WAS KNOWN ABOUT PARAQUAT?
The fact that Paraquat causes certain adverse health consequences has been well documented in the scientific literature for over a decade. Additionally, the fact that the very low level of exposure required to cause these adverse health consequences, is also well documented.
Adverse health events show to be caused by paraquat include but are not limited to:
Parkinson’s disease (long latency period).
Brain damage absent Parkinson’s pathology. (generally long latency period).
Liver Injury, including liver failure. (latency dependent on dose exposure and accumulation).
Kidney injury, including bilateral kidney failure. (latency dependent on dose exposure and accumulation).
Lung damage described in the literature as “Paraquat Lung” including complete respiratory arrest and failure (latency dependent on dose exposure and accumulation).
Heart Failure, as a primary injury as well as secondary to lung damage (cardiopulmonary injury).
(latency dependent on dose exposure and accumulation).
Still Births and Birth Defects. The weight of the literature relevant to Still Births and Birth Defects caused by Paraquat is limited.
The current Paraquat litigation did not arise from the sudden recent discovery that this highly toxic substance, given sufficient exposure, causes adverse health consequences, including those listed above.
The forgoing begs the question; If the adverse health consequences of paraquat were known for over a decade, why are Plaintiffs filing claims now?
SUMMARY OF THE CURRENT CAUSE OF ACTION
The makers of Paraquat (defendants) containing products were, under a duty to instruct (warn) applicators (generally farmers) of steps and precautions required to prevent human exposure to the toxic substance, in sufficient doses to cause adverse health consequences.
The manufacturers (defendants) failed to properly instruct applicators, regarding the steps and precautions required to prevent exposure to the toxic substance in sufficient dosages to cause the adverse health consequences the substance is known to cause.
Additionally, the manufacturers failed to instruct applicators steps and precautions required to prevent chemical trespass from overspray and chemical drift.
The defendants failed to fulfill their duties.
THE EVIDENCE and THE WHY NOW
After many years of industry resistance, the EPA recently acted to (among other things) cause the makers of paraquat containing products to revise their labels to contain instructions for use and other information’s which plaintiffs contend should have been in place prior to their suffering injuries due to the absence of such instructions and warnings.
Additionally, the EPA has placed a complete restriction on the spraying of paraquat containing products from crop dusters as well as large scale mechanically pressurized ground based spraying equipment.
EPA has completed review of the public comments, and in October 2020 released the Proposed Interim Decision. In this document, EPA is proposing the following protections to reduce exposure to paraquat.
Prohibiting aerial application for all uses and use sites except cotton desiccation; Prohibiting pressurized handgun and backpack sprayer application methods on the label;
Requiring a residential area drift buffer and 7-day restricted entry interval (REI) for cotton desiccation.
Limiting the maximum application rate for alfalfa to one pound of active ingredient per acre;
Requiring enclosed cabs or PF10 respirators if area treated in 24-hour period is 80 acres or less;
Requiring a 48-hour REI for all crops and uses except cotton desiccation; and