On January 19, 2023, MBG filed a civil rights lawsuit in Virginia federal court against agrochemical corporation Monsanto—now owned by the Bayer Corporation—for violating the rights of Elvira Reyes-Hernandez, a non-United States citizen farmworker who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after she was exposed, at work, to the Monsanto herbicide Roundup. After Ms. Reyes-Hernandez sued Monsanto in state court, claiming that Roundup had caused her cancer, she was excluded from participation in a Monsanto settlement program and dropped summarily from the state court lawsuit because she is not a U.S. citizen.
MBG—partnering with the Collins Law Firm, Dugan Schlozman LLC, and several civil rights organizations—has brought a federal lawsuit on Ms. Reyes-Hernandez’s behalf under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, one of the country’s oldest civil rights laws. The law ensures that “all persons” in the United States have the same right to make and enforce contracts, sue, and be parties to legal proceedings, as white citizens have. The federal lawsuit names Monsanto, Bayer, and Ms. Reyes-Hernandez’s former attorneys who dropped her case when it did not settle, telling her that U.S. citizenship was required for settlement. MBG and its partner law firms also have re-filed Ms. Reyes-Hernandez’s personal injury claim against Monsanto in state court in Missouri.
More than 100,000 lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto by persons exposed to Roundup, and Monsanto has established a settlement program to resolve some of these claims. Given that more than 70% of agricultural crop farmworkers are not U.S. citizens, MBG believes that Ms. Reyes-Hernandez is one of many non-citizen victims of Roundup illegally excluded from the Roundup settlement.
The federal court case is Elvira Reyes-Hernandez v. Monsanto Company, et al., 23-cv-1 (W.D. Va.), and is being litigated, for MBG, by Benjamin Blustein with Sarah Siskind, and Paul Balik and two co-counsel firms.