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In lawsuits, 2 Maryland families allege weed killer caused cancer

FILE - This Jan. 26, 2017, file photo shows containers of Roundup, a weed killer made by Monsanto, on a shelf at a hardware store in Los Angeles. Lawyers for a school groundskeeper dying of cancer asked a San Francisco jury during a trial Monday, July 9, 2018, to find that agribusiness giant Monsanto's widely used weed killer Roundup likely caused his disease. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

FILE – This Jan. 26, 2017, file photo shows containers of Roundup, a weed killer made by Monsanto, on a shelf at a hardware store in Los Angeles. Lawyers for a school groundskeeper dying of cancer asked a San Francisco jury during a trial Monday, July 9, 2018, to find that agribusiness giant Monsanto’s widely used weed killer Roundup likely caused his disease. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

Two Maryland families are joining the growing wave of litigation alleging the weed killer Roundup causes cancer, filing separate lawsuits in federal court this month for products liability and negligence.

More than 1,500 cases were pending in federal court as part of multidistrict products liability litigation as of Aug. 15, according to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The lawsuits allege Monsanto, which makes Roundup, knew about the risk of cancer from the active ingredient, glyphosate, but failed to warn people.

A jury in San Francisco made headlines last year when it returned a $289 million verdict in favor of a groundskeeper diagnosed with lymphoma. The award was later reduced to $78 million by the judge.

Two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore this month make similar allegations about the dangers of Roundup and Monsanto’s marketing campaign claiming its safety.

Monkton resident Susan McAllister filed suit Aug. 1 on behalf of the estate of her husband, Robert F. McAllister. Robert McAllister died in 2016 from leukemia but had been diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1996, which the lawsuit attributes to use of Roundup.

Robert McAllister, a retired Baltimore police detective, was 64 when he died, according to an obituary. Attorney Jay Miller, of the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos P.C. in Baltimore, said he was treated for lymphoma, went into remission and then became sick again.

“It’s difficult and it will always be difficult because he didn’t die from what (his wife) felt would have been a normal death,” Miller said Tuesday. “I think that’s the problem with this. If you got non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from life in general, it’s hard enough to accept, but to know and believe that you got it from using a product you believed was safe, it makes it more difficult.”

Miller said the goal of the lawsuits across the country, in addition to compensating victims, was to get Roundup off the market.

“Monsanto still claims that it’s safe, they won’t put a warning on it,” Miller said. “You can go into Home Depot today and buy Roundup and there’s no label on it that says glyphosate (is dangerous).”

The second lawsuit, filed last week by Claire Sigwart and her husband, Francis Sigwart, of Perry Hall, alleges her regular use of Roundup beginning in 2012 lead to her 2017 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After a short period of remission, Claire Sigwart’s lymphoma returned earlier this year and she underwent further treatment.

“Mrs. Sigwart would not have used Roundup if she knew it could cause cancer,” the lawsuit states.

Both lawsuits reference the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an organization within the World Health Organization, that has examined the toxicity of glyphosate and classified it as a “probable human carcinogen.” IARC concluded there was a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Monsanto has repeatedly stated that Roundup is safe for humans and the environment, but litigants argue the company knew of glyphosate’s risks long before the plaintiffs used the product, according to the complaints.

The Sigwarts allege Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies exposing glyphosate’s dangers.” McAllister argues the company’s failure to modify labeling or otherwise warn consumers “has resulted in inadequate warnings in safety information presented directly to users and consumers.”

The McAllister lawsuit, which was filed less than three years after Robert McAllister’s death, argues that any statute of limitations on the claims was tolled by Monsanto’s “affirmative misrepresentations and omissions” that “actively concealed” the dangers of the product.

“Because of the fraudulent acts of concealment of wrongdoing by Defendant, Decedent and Plaintiff could not have reasonably discovered the wrongdoing at any time prior,” the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint alleges negligence, strict products liability, violations of Maryland consumer protection laws, fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment, and wrongful death and survival action.

The Sigwarts similarly allege equitable tolling because Claire Sigwart did not learn her lymphoma could be linked to Roundup until recently, in part due to claims by Monsanto that the product is safe.

The lawsuit alleges strict liability, negligence, breach of implied and express warranties, and loss of consortium.

Both plaintiffs expect their cases to be transferred to the multidistrict litigation in California.

Justin A. Browne, of Ketterer, Browne & Anderson LLC in Bel Air, represents the Sigwarts. He did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The cases are Susan McAllister v. Monsanto Company, 1:19-cv-02229, and Claire Sigwart et al. v. Monsanto Company, 1:19-cv-02440.


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