NEW YORK: A US judge overseeing the federal litigation against Bayer AG's Monsanto unit over glyphosate-based weed-killers allegedly causing cancer on Tuesday (Nov 20) selected the first case to be tried in federal court in February 2019.
US District Judge Vince Chaabria in San Francisco in an order said the case of California resident Edwin Hardeman will be the first out of more than 620 cases pending in the federal litigation to go to a jury.
Hardeman's case will mark the second trial in the US litigation over glyphosate, after a California state court jury in August awarded US$289 million to a school groundskeeper, finding Monsanto liable for the man's cancer.
Damages were later reduced to US$78 million, and Bayer, which denies the allegations, said it would appeal the decision.
Its share price, however, has dropped more than 30 per cent since the Aug 10 jury verdict and the company faces some 9,300 US glyphosate lawsuits.
Bayer, which acquired Monsanto earlier this year for US$63 billion, says its glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer, pointing to decades of scientific studies and regulatory approvals that have shown the chemical to be safe for human use.
Hardeman's case was picked as a so-called bellwether, or test trial, frequently used in US product liability mass litigation to help both sides gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.
Hardeman began using the Roundup brand herbicide with glyphosate in the 1980s to control poison oak and weeds on his property and sprayed "large volumes" of the chemical for many years on a regular basis, according to court documents. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, in February 2015 and filed his lawsuit a year later.
Glyphosate jury trials will ramp up next year. The company is scheduled to face jurors in another California state court trial in March, after a judge last week granted a couple's request for an expedited trial.
Another trial in St Louis, Missouri, state court is expected to start later in 2019.
The US Environmental Protection Agency in September 2017 concluded a decades-long assessment of glyphosate risks and found the chemical not likely carcinogenic to humans. But the World Health Organization's cancer arm in 2015 classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Tom Brown)