Monsanto cites judge's alleged 'off-the-record' instruction in bid to overturn $175M Roundup verdict
A lawyer for a man who said he contracted cancer from the weed killer Roundup told Law360 that Monsanto’s brief “is a scattershot of unmeritorious grievances, which have been previously litigated and rejected by the court.” Image from Shutterstock.
Lawyers for the Monsanto Co. are citing a Philadelphia judge’s "off-the-record 'deadlock' instruction" in a bid to overturn a $175 million verdict on behalf of a man who said he contracted cancer from the weed killer Roundup.
In a Nov. 6 motion, Monsanto lawyers allege that Judge James C. Crumlish III of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas sent a message to deadlocked jurors through his clerk without disclosure to the parties.
The clerk allegedly told jurors, who had been deadlocked 9-3 for the plaintiff, that they would have to keep deliberating at least two more days unless they had at least 10 votes either for the defendant or the plaintiff. Jurors returned a 10-2 verdict for the plaintiff.
Jurors awarded $175 million to Ernest Caranci on Oct. 27. He said he had used Roundup in his garden for several years before developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to previous Reuters coverage.
Crumlish sent the message in response to a jury call or text to the court clerk asking how to proceed given the deadlock, according to the motion by Monsanto, which is owned by Bayer AG. Monsanto discovered the issue after interviewing Juror No. 9, who also did not recall a vote on specific damages figures.
The message from the judge was “highly coercive and did not include any of the language or protections” required in Pennsylvania, Monsanto’s motion said.
The motion also asserts that Crumlish was wrong on several evidentiary rulings, and that the $175 million award was excessive.
The motion seeks a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, a new trial or a lower damage award. It also asks Crumlish to recuse himself from ruling on the request.
Thomas Kline, a lawyer for Caranci and his wife, told Law360 in a statement that Monsanto’s brief “is a scattershot of unmeritorious grievances, which have been previously litigated and rejected by the court.”
Monsanto still faces more than 40,000 Roundup lawsuits, despite settling most of the litigation in 2020 for $10.9 billion, according to Reuters.