Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner scored another major victory this past week in its defense of Monsanto in ongoing litigation brought by users of the company’s Roundup herbicide, as the Missouri Supreme Court rejected an attempt by plaintiffs to force a trial to be held in the City of St. Louis.
The six plaintiffs, who all alleged they developed cancer as a result of exposure to Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup, argued they could sue Monsanto in the City of St. Louis (a much more plaintiff-friendly venue than St. Louis County) because they claimed Monsanto once had a registered agent in the city decades ago.
The trial court agreed with plaintiffs and consolidated all six cases into a single trial, though none of the plaintiffs live in Missouri, where Monsanto is headquartered. BCLP came aboard as legal and appellate counsel, a role the firm has played in numerous other Roundup trials.
In January, the Missouri Supreme Court granted an emergency writ petition halting a multi-plaintiff Roundup trial in the City of St. Louis midway through jury selection. Such actions are exceedingly rare. Juries in the City of St. Louis have issued outsized verdicts in multi-plaintiff product liability cases in recent years (including a highly publicized $2 billion verdict against J&J in talc litigation), so avoiding a multi-plaintiff trial in the city was a critical objective.
The Supreme Court’s decision on August 15 made the emergency writ permanent. It will impact numerous cases, with innumerable plaintiffs, which are improperly venued in the City of St. Louis and pursuant to the Supreme Court’s latest ruling, must now be transferred to other venues in the state.
BCLP attorneys identified the venue problem and recommended that the client file an emergency writ petition to prohibit the trial court from proceeding. St. Louis Litigation partner Stefani Wittenauer devised the strategy to seek the last-minute writ and drafted the petition with Litigation Department Chair Lee Marshall consulting throughout the process.
After the preliminary writ was granted, Ms. Wittenauer led the briefing in the Missouri Supreme Court with significant assistance from litigation associates Sam Hofmeier and Cayce Good. Mr. Marshall argued the case in the Missouri Supreme Court in May, and last week the Missouri Supreme Court issued its decision making the writ permanent.