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Judges in St. Louis seem to have embraced their reputation for skirting both state law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent. They have allowed junk science to enter their courtrooms, going so far as to allow expert witnesses to testify who other courts have found unreliable. Nuclear verdicts are becoming more frequent. Not only are plaintiffs from other states flocking to the jurisdiction, but international parties are coming to St. Louis courts as well.

Much-needed civil justice reform legislation has stalled in Missouri for the past few years, and the legislature must prioritize reforms to address the lawsuit abuse bogging down business in the state.


Roundup® Litigation

St. Louis, along with fellow Judicial Hellhole® California, is home to tens of thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto involving its Roundup® weedkiller. These lawsuits allege that the active ingredient in the product, glyphosate, causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Despite the Missouri legislature requiring closer scrutiny of proposed expert testimony in 2017 by adopting a standard consistent with federal courts and most other state courts, St. Louis judges have allowed junk science in their courtrooms. Because of this, law firms across the country are flocking to St. Louis to file their lawsuits.

Monsanto has successfully defended itself in most cases heard in the venue; however, the judges continue to stack the deck against them.

In May 2023, Monsanto secured another victory, even after the plaintiff’s counsel put forward two questionable “experts” who argued glyphosate caused the plaintiff to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma more than ten years after she had used the product. Dr. Beate Ritz, an epidemiologist from UCLA, is known for testifying in previous trials against Monsanto that glyphosate in Roundup® causes this form of cancer.

Her opinions have previously been called into question as junk science by Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In a 2018 Roundup® trial, Dr. Ritz was questioned on the ground that she did not adjust her analysis to account for exposure to other pesticides or other factors that might cause cancer, despite her own testimony that it would be wise to consider such data, or “adjusted odd ratios.” Other epidemiologists also testified the same.

Dr. Ritz also was called out for “cherry-picking” results by downplaying other studies showing that the link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma is insignificant and Judge Chabbria called her conclusion that glyphosate causes cancer “dubious.”

A second St. Louis expert, Dr. Dennis Weisenburger, claimed that the plaintiff’s use of Roundup® from 1992 to 2005 was a significant factor in her non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, but discounted other health risk factors. Dr. Weisenburger has served as expert on behalf of plaintiff in previous Roundup® lawsuits and  has said that using Roundup® for more than 2 days in a year doubles the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. When questioned on cross examination about the fact that no regulatory body aside from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as carcinogenic, he could not give a direct answer.

For St. Louis to move off the Judicial Hellholes® list, judges must embrace their role as gatekeepers at the outset of trial and not allow junk science to be heard in their courtrooms.

Case to Watch: Allegrezza et al. v. Monsanto Co.

In yet another Roundup® trial held in St. Louis County in September 2023 over allegations that the weedkiller caused a plaintiff’s cancer, the plaintiff’s expert exposed her unshakable bias during cross-examination. The plaintiff had retained Dr. Kristan Aronson, a recently retired epidemiologist and cancer causation researcher, to express an opinion that glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

During her testimony, Aronson plunged into research dating back to 2015, coinciding with the year when IARC published its monograph that classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Upon closer scrutiny by Monsanto’s lawyers, it emerged that Aronson had only inspected and formed an opinion on this research nearly six years later, when the plaintiff’s legal team approached her in the fall of 2021. Essentially, the plaintiff’s lawyers colored their expert’s testimony by supplying the motive for Aronson to turn to their favorite research.

Shortly after this damaging revelation, the plaintiff’s lawyers rested their case. The next day, Judge Brian May granted a directed verdict to Monsanto, representing Monsanto’s ninth Roundup® trial win in a row. The plaintiff’s team expressed their intent to appeal the ruling.


In March, the City of St. Louis sued Hyundai and Kia in federal court for manufacturing, marketing, distrib- uting, and selling automobiles that lack an “anti-theft measure” known an as “engine immobilizer.” Rather than hold thieves responsible for their criminal actions, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones blames the auto manufacturers for contributing to a significant rise in vehicle thefts in St. Louis.

Among other claims, the City alleges that the companies created a public nuisance because stolen cars represent a public safety hazard, contribute to violence, and divert St. Louis law enforcement of resources as they respond to property destruction and dangerous driving of stolen cars around the city. According to Mayor Tishaura Jones, “Big corporations like Kia and Hyundai must be held accountable for endangering our residents and putting profit over people.”


St. Louis remains a preferred jurisdiction for the plaintiffs’ bar. As of July 2023, St. Louis had seen a 10.5% increase in filings and was the fifth most popular jurisdiction for filing asbestos cases nationwide. Plaintiffs’ lawyers filed more asbestos lawsuits through the first seven months of this year than all of the previously recorded years.

A 2022 nuclear verdict in an asbestos case in St. Louis highlights the need for reform. In Trokey v.

Chesterton Co., the plaintiff claimed he was exposed to asbestos while working on Ford brakes as a gas sta- tion mechanic, causing him to develop mesothelioma. Ford argued that the plaintiff never worked for Ford, did not regularly work as a mechanic, and that his exposure likely came from a source other than brake linings. Nonetheless, the jury awarded $20 million – $10 million to him and $10 million to his wife. The $20 million award was the same amount the plaintiffs’ lawyer requested in his closing argument. The case is on appeal.


According to a recent study, Missouri ranked in the top-10 states for most nuclear verdicts in personal injury and wrongful death cases from 2010 to 2019. Nuclear verdicts are those that exceed $10 million.

Among the factors contributing to these massive verdicts is the allowance of “anchoring.” Missouri law permits plaintiffs’ lawyers to urge juries to return a specific amount to compensate a person for his or her pain and suffering and other subjective noneconomic damages. Lawyers will suggest an unreasonably large award, making that number an “anchor” point in jurors’ minds. As a result, jurors can be manipulated into awarding levels that are far beyond amounts they would otherwise reach and that truly serve a compensatory purpose.

In September 2023, parents were awarded $745 million after a 25-year-old woman was struck and killed on the sidewalk by a driver who had passed out after consuming nitrous oxide. The driver had purchased the nitrous oxide chargers from Coughing Cardinal, a shop in St. Louis. United Brands manufactured, distributed and sold the nitrous oxide under the name “Whip-It!” as a food propellant.

The lawsuit alleged that United Brands, Coughing Cardinal, and others are involved in an illicit nitrous oxide distribution ring; that United Brands and Coughing Cardinal intentionally exploited the illicit market for nitrous oxide by marketing it to young individuals, despite knowing its dangers; and, that United Brands was the “supplier” and Coughing Cardinal was the “drug dealer.” United Brands argued that it is no more liable than a beer manufacturer would be for a drunk driver causing a wrongful death. The driver alone should be liable for misusing the product by inhaling it. The jury ultimately assigned 10% liability to the driver, 20% to Coughing Cardinal, and 70% to United Brands.

Other 2023 nuclear verdicts include:

  • March 2023: $11 million verdict in product liability case in Louis County Circuit Court.
  • March 2023: $15 million verdict in wrongful death suit in Louis County Circuit Court.
  • June 2023: $10 million verdict in a case arising out of a “relatively minor” car accident in Louis County Circuit Court.


In 2017, the Missouri Legislature passed S.B. 31, which included an overhaul of the collateral source rule. For years, the statute was interpreted by all to prohibit the introduction of evidence to recover damages based on the amount billed by a healthcare provider if that amount exceeded the amount that the healthcare provider accepted as full payment from a patient or an insurer or other party for that treatment. This rule, which is consistent with the statutory text and legislative intent, limited damages to the amount actually paid for medical care.

In recent years, however, Missouri courts have allowed plaintiffs’ lawyers to introduce evidence of inflated amounts billed purportedly to show the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries, rather than the amount of damages sought. Allowing this evidence has artificially increased damage awards, delayed settlement of cases and increased the cost of insurance premiums in Missouri.

Missouri should close the loophole and prohibit courts from admitting evidence of billed amounts for medical treatment that no one ever paid.


In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed to hear a case that will have a monumental impact on the Missouri civil justice system, specifically in St. Louis.

Beginning in 2007, several international plaintiffs filed lawsuits against American companies, including Doe Run, in the City of St. Louis over a Peruvian company’s operation of a smelting facility in the Andes Mountains. The case was then removed to federal district court. Though the allegation that the facility’s emissions harmed nearby residents was brought by Peruvian citizens against a Peruvian company based on its Peruvian operations that are subject to Peruvian environmental law, a federal court ruled that it would decide the case, applying Missouri tort law.

Should the Eighth Circuit uphold the lower court’s decision, there is vast potential liability for American businesses engaged in legitimate international activity. The Associated Industries of Missouri described the potential impact: “St. Louis City juries, which are well known for issuing record-setting verdicts, will be invited to assess liability against companies located anywhere in the world on behalf of foreign nationals who have never been to Missouri, irrespective of the law or policy of the foreign nation.”

In addition, imposing the standards of Missouri tort law upon an environmental remediation project in Peru has significant international implications, overriding a country’s sovereign right to regulate and enforce its own environmental and economic development policies. It would give a green light for opportunistic plaintiffs’ lawyers to bring foreign suits in U.S. courts, seeking to apply favorable state laws in friendly courts.

"St. Louis City juries, which are well known for issuing record-setting verdicts, will be invited to assess liability against companies located anywhere in the world on behalf of foreign nationals who have never been to Missouri, irrespective of the law or policy of the foreign nation.”
Associated Industries of Missouri


Much-needed reforms continue to stall in the Missouri legislature as several legislators have accepted campaign contributions from the trial bar and are now doing its bidding.

Senator Mike Moon, a Republican representing the 29th Senatorial District, is seeking re-election in the upcoming 2024 elections. During the election cycles spanning from 2014 to 2022, Senator Moon accepted a total of $24,850 in contributions from the trial bar. The majority of these funds were secured during his 2020 Senate campaign.

Another Republican legislator, Senator Bill Eigel, currently representing the 23rd Senatorial District, is vying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Across his prior campaigns, Senator Eigel has collected a total of $32,759 in trial bar donations, with a significant portion directed towards his 2020 Senate campaign. Notably, Senator Eigel enjoys support from the Believe in Life and Liberty (BILL) PAC, which, over the years, has received $306,169 in contributions from trial lawyers. Additionally, Senator Eigel is backed by the 100 PAC, which has accepted $183,560 in trial lawyer donations.

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