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Philadelphia Judge Restores Some Sanity to Monsanto Litigation

This week, Monsanto scored its first defense verdict in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas after a string of astounding losses.  This important win came after Judge Joshua Roberts, the judge overseeing mass tort litigation in Philadelphia, diligently exercised his gatekeeping function and prevented the plaintiff’s lawyers from introducing junk science. 

Judge Roberts excluded the infamous IARC study that has been the foundation for much of the Roundup litigation. This 2015 report — in stark contrast to more than 800 scientific studies as well as analyses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada — concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.” ATRF has written extensively about the problems surrounding the report, including the fact that an “invited specialist,” Christopher Portier, who had no prior experience working with glyphosate, advised the study while being paid by an anti-pesticide group and law firms suing over glyphosate.  Following Portier’s arrival at IARC, the final glyphosate study was altered in at least 10 ways to either remove or reverse conclusions finding no evidence of carcinogenicity.

Judge Roberts also excluded dubious expert evidence discussing purported flaws in the EPA’s analysis. 

The impact of Judge Robert’s decision to exclude junk science was undeniable and shows the importance of the judge’s gatekeeping function.  The IARC report and other baseless science had been admitted in prior trials in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas that resulted in massive verdicts for the plaintiffs, including damage awards of $175 million and $2.25 billion. These verdicts, and the underlying judicial decisions that led to them, helped propel the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to the top of the most recent Judicial Hellholes report.

Fellow Pennsylvania judges should take note of Judge Roberts’ approach and follow his lead to prevent junk science from being introduced in their courtrooms. This is an important step towards ridding the state of its Judicial Hellholes status.

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