News Recap for 11-20-20
IWF: If “Science Is Real” Why Do Companies Settle? — Regulatory agencies in the United States and around the world have consistently concluded that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is likely not a human carcinogen. Nevertheless, three American juries have found Bayer (which purchased Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, in 2018) liable to the tune of $289 million, $80 million and $2 billion, respectively. Why? Because, all too often, jurors are swayed by emotion and empathy for a cancer-stricken plaintiff, rather than science. According to a new report by the Center for Truth in Science, verdicts such as these, combined with misleading advertisements from predatory trial lawyers seeking plaintiffs, have led to a drastic drop in consumer demand for talc-based baby powder within the U.S. and Canada.
Bloomberg Law: Dingell Says ‘Forever Chemicals’ Top Congressional Priority — Legislation that would require the EPA to regulate so-called ‘forever chemicals’ will be reintroduced in January, soon after the new Congress begins its first session, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) announced this week. The bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set cleanup standards and enforceable drinking water limits for at least some PFAS, and would also ban the chemicals from materials that touch food, such as cookware and cosmetics. Members of Congress will also urge the new administration to pursue PFAS controls that don’t require legislation.
San Francisco Public Press: As Cancer Concerns Lead Cities to Ban Herbicide, S.F. Scales Back Use of Roundup — Bay Area cities face a tough choice — keep using a chemical that exposes them to legal risks, or switch to other, often less effective methods. San Francisco has elected to limit its risk through a strategy known as integrated pest management, and has worked to scale back dramatically on glyphosate (the key ingredient in weedkiller Roundup) use since 2015. Though in 2020, most Bay Area cities and counties had prohibited use of Roundup completely in public spaces. San Francisco’s decision to keep using a tiny amount — just 5% of what it used to regularly spray on plants in parks and street medians — still makes it an outlier.
The Intercept: Solvay Withholds Data About Toxic PFAS Pollution in New Jersey — The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) sued chemical company Solvay over PFAS contamination, charging the chemical manufacturer with violating multiple environmental laws by releasing the toxic industrial compounds into soil, water, and air near the plant. The suit also demanded that the company allow the state agency to release information about the newly discovered chemicals’ effects on health and the environment. Solvay, however, has forbidden the state agency from sharing the details of the chemicals’ effects on health and the environment on the grounds that they are confidential business information.
Legal Newsline: New York judge won’t overturn J&J talc verdict but trims to $120 million — Judge Gerald Lebovits rejected Johnson &Johnson’s complaints that the trial in New York’s specialized asbestos court was marred by unreliable testimony from plaintiff experts and irregularities in the jury room that led one juror to complain there was a “child game” going on with jurors being manipulated into a pro-plaintiff verdict. He did, however, slash the $350 million jury verdict to $120 million. J&J argued the plaintiffs’ case depended upon the testimony of experts like William Longo, who claims to have found asbestos fibers in bottles of talc he obtained from plaintiff lawyers who purchased them on eBay and from other sources. Other courts have rejected such evidence as unreliable, given that previously opened bottles easily could be contaminated with the asbestos fibers that are ubiquitous in the atmosphere and particularly common in interior environments.