Pre-Trial Day 1 – We Are All Gathered Here Today

Case Number: CGC16550128
Title: DEWAYNE JOHNSON VS. MONSANTO COMPANY ET AL
Cause of Action: PRODUCTS LIABILITY

Today is the day – entering the courthouse, I feel enthused by the prospect of this case heightening awareness of the potentially toxic effect of pesticides on our bodies. Thank you, Dewayne Johnson, for having the courage to take up this fight against Monsanto amidst your grueling treatment of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Where is everyone?  It is me, lawyers and a handful of journalists sitting in our assigned courtroom 504. Monsanto has three attorneys sitting in the front. I wonder about them – they appear pleasant enough, and understandably are just doing their jobs. I wonder further if any part of their mind is interested to see the evidence of the harmful effects of glyphosate on their own bodies (or those of their children). Maybe not. I’m sure that Monsanto has been highly convincing in its persuasion of the safety of its best selling product Roundup.

Judge Bolanos enters the courtroom and we all rise. There is a nervous enthusiasm in the room.  The attorneys from both sides announce themselves. Due to a near fatal accident, lead attorney for the Plaintiff Mike Miller has been replaced by Brent Wisner. I saw Brent Wisner during the MDL hearings in March. I feel confident that the energetic, not-short-on-words nor confidence Wisner is prepared to present a thorough argument. The other members of the team look equally dynamic in that whistleblower liability law kind of way. Monsanto had filed a motion to prevent Wisner from trying the case, claiming that he is a “PR Man” in the fight against the use of glyphosate. But he is here and ready.

The morning session is mostly logistical – laying the timeframe for the case, hours, jury selection. Monsanto and Plaintiffs have been working together to create a common questionnaire for the jury selection process. Judge Bolanos announces that she would like each side give a brief overview of the case to the potential jurors during selection.  She has found with more high profile, interesting cases such as this one, potential jurors are less likely to make hardship requests. So it sounds like the attorneys will be pitching the case similar to Shark Tank, only for quality people not cash.

We break for 2 hours. I’m sitting in the hallway with some reporters. There is discussion around whether Monsanto is pronounced Mon-SAW-nto or Mon-SAN-to. The latter is correct. While trying to appear the sane person that I think I am, I discuss with a reporter the groundbreaking nature of this trial, and the huge opportunity for news to break this story in a large, expository, and journalistic manner. The reporter agrees that it does seem like an urgent matter of public health.

Let’s remember that this case is only discussing the potential carcinogenic element of Roundup. Why is this important? I think that the carcinogenic aspect is the lowest hanging fruit for attorneys and public health advocates to address. While published research does exist on the broad damage that glyphosate exacts on mammalian cells, the ideas behind the intestinal mucosa and microbiome are relatively new science. So many conditions are now thought to originate in the intestine – including autoimmunity, migraines, inflammation, allergies, fertility, mood disorders and more. If we are consuming Roundup regularly on our foods and in the environment, the cumulative exposure to glyphosate is logically going to negatively impact our biome and mucosal health.

But back to the case at hand.

We all file back into the courtroom, chitchatting. Judge Bolanos states that 4 requests have been made from the media to film the case “gavel to gavel.” Welcome laughter from that courtroom humor. Monsanto objects. Wisner stands to say that his mom would be disappointed if it isn’t televised. The judge is neutral in response.

More prep work addressed :

  • Which filed motions will need to be heard before opening statements
  • Witness review and time estimations for each testimony
  • Permissibility to share over 100 pieces of evidence from the Plaintiffs
  • Tech setup schedule – looks like the courtroom will be decked out in screens
  • Jurors will be allowed to ask questions, and will be given notebooks
  • Court will run from 9:30 – 4:30 with a lunch break at noon

Time is called and we all exit the courtroom. I wonder if more people will show after jury is selected and the case is underway? It will be a riveting case. Stay tuned.

© 2018 Kelly Ryerson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

1 Comment

  1. As an environmental scientist, I am excited to see this happening. It’s sad it came from someone being afflicted with cancer.

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