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March 8, 2019

Phase 1 Nears End, Judge Ponders Jury Instructions

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(Transcript from today’s proceedings)

Lawyers for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman rested their case on Friday, giving Monsanto a turn to put on its own witnesses in this first phase of the case.

Judge Chhabria has indicated he would like to see the first phase of the trial wrapped up by early next week, and he has ordered attorneys for both sides to be ready to discuss and debate two proposed sets of instructions for him to give the jury for deliberations regarding the definition of “causation.”

For Hardeman’s case to be allowed to proceed to a Phase 2 in which damages could be awarded, the group of six jurors must be unanimous in finding that Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma, so the judge’s instructions about how the element of causation is defined is a critical point.

The judge’s first option reads as follows: “To prevail on the question of medical causation, Mr. Hardeman must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Roundup was a substantial factor in causing his non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A substantial factor is a factor that a reasonable person would consider to have contributed to the harm. It must be more than a remote or trivial factor. If you conclude that Mr. Hardeman has proven that his exposure to Roundup was a substantial factor in causing his NHL, then you should find for Mr. Hardeman even if you believe that other risk factors were substantial factors as well.”

The judge’s second option has the same first three lines as the first option but then adds this: “Conduct is not a substantial factor in causing harm if the same harm would have occurred without that conduct.”

Option 2 also changes the last line of the instruction to say: “However, if you conclude that Mr. Hardeman has proven that his exposure to Roundup was sufficient on its own to cause his NHL, then you should find for Mr. Hardeman even if you believe that other risk factors were also sufficient to cause his NHL.”

A big part of Monsanto’s defense is to suggest that other factors could be the cause of Hardeman’s cancer, including a struggle with hepatitis C. Hardeman’s team has said that he was cured in 2006 of hepatitis C but Monsanto’s team argues that cell damage from the hepatitis was a potential contributor to his cancer.

Monsanto expert witness Dr. Daniel Arber  in his pre-trial report wrote that Hardeman has many risk factors for NHL, and said: “There is no indication that Roundup played any role in the development of his NHL, and there are no pathological features to suggest a cause of his lymphoma.”

Judge Chhabria has ruled that Arber cannot testify that the hepatitis C caused Hardeman’s NHL but ruled Thursday that Arber can explain that Hardeman’s lengthy exposure to hepatitis C left him at risk of developing NHL even after his virus had been successfully treated.

Several new documents have been filed by both parties related to evidence and jury instructions. See them at Monsanto Papers Hardeman page.