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Who assumes liability for glyphosate’s impact?

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Legal proceedings, with regards to glyphosate’s negative impacts, have only begun.

A law professor fears liability and damages could trickle down to the farm.

A California jury last month ruled in favor of Edwin Hardeman, who claims to have contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following use of glyphosate. Liability and damages have yet to be determined. In an earlier case, however, jurors found Monsanto liable of $289 million, after Dewayne Johnson presented a similar claim. The award was later reduced to $78 million and is on appeal.

These rulings should not be ignored by farmers and landowners. Dr. Roger McEowen, Kansas Farm Bureau agricultural law and taxation professor at Washburn University School of Law, believes such verdicts could impact those on-farm.

McEowen suggests it may be time to worry.

“It may be time to start worrying about this, particularly since the most recent jury verdict was designated by the judge who is to handle all of these cases,” Dr. McEowen said. “By the way, there’s 11,000 cases in the hopper. He designated this as one of the bellwether cases. That kind of gives us cause for concern.”

Dr. McEowen encourages farmers to assess their need for glyphosate and landowners to adjust their lease agreements. He advises both parties to speak with legal counsel and protect themselves from potential risk.

“There are serious conversations, which need to be had with one’s legal counsel,” Dr. McEowen said. “If you have a tenant, do you need to go back in and modify your written lease agreement? If you don’t have a written lease agreement, get one and put language in there, which tells the tenant they’re not able to use glyphosate products or products related to it. Have language in the lease, which involves the tenant waiving potential legal claims against the landlord or providing for the landlord to be indemnified by the tenant for glyphosate-related claims.”

It would also be wise to check your farm’s comprehensive liability policy, says Dr. McEowen.

“A lot of these policies will have a ‘pollution exclusion clause’ in them,” Dr. McOwen said. “It’s time to have legal counsel look at those, talk to the insurance company and raise the question, ‘Is glyphosate deemed to be pollution under the term of the policy, which has been excluded from coverage,’ or ‘If I employ people, what are my rules for employees? Should I switch to independent contractors, so they make all the decisions, and if there is a glyphosate-related problem on my farm, I’m not going to be held liable?’”