By Carey Gillam
Lawyers representing a man who blames his cancer on exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer are crying foul over what they say are close personal ties between a lead Monsanto lawyer and a special magistrate helping oversee the Roundup litigation.
In an Aug. 17 court filing, the plaintiffs’ attorneys asked for St. Louis County special master Robert Blitz to be disqualified from his role in the litigation because of an “appearance of impropriety” and questions about his impartiality.
A hearing on the matter is set for Tuesday.
There are dozens of plaintiffs named in the case, and all allege that exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
One of the plaintiffs, Mark McCostlin, of Lenexa, Kansas, is set to go to trial against Monsanto in St. Louis County Circuit Court in early September.
The motion alleges that Monsanto lead attorney James Bennett “has a close relationship” with special master Blitz. The two men worked together as co-counsel in a separate case, and Bennett also has personally acted as legal counsel for Blitz and for his law firm, according to the motion.
Additionally, the two men are “effectively economic partners” in a contingency fee case that brought their two law firms $276.5 million in fees, which they split, according to the motion.
“Their relationship creates a conflict of interest such that Blitz is not qualified to serve as special master in any case in which Bennett is trial counsel,” the motion states.