MBG attorneys Benjamin Blustein, Sarah Siskind and Paul Balik have settled an important federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that agrochemical giant Monsanto Corp. and several plaintiffs law firms excluded farmworker Elvira Reyes-Hernandez from participating in Roundup personal injury settlements because she is not a U.S. citizen.
The settlement achieves far-reaching benefits, as it secures Monsanto’s commitment that it will not exclude persons from future Roundup settlements based on either citizenship or immigration status.
Ms. Reyes-Hernandez was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after she was exposed to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup while working on tree farms in Virginia, and thereafter joined a state-court lawsuit against Monsanto alleging that Roundup caused her cancer.
In the meantime, more than 100,000 similar Roundup lawsuits had been filed against Monsanto in various courts around the nation. Monsanto had established a settlement program to resolve some of these claims. Ms. Reyes Hernandez applied to participate in that settlement program, but alleges that she was excluded, and dropped by her lawyers from her state court lawsuit, because she is not a U.S. citizen.
MBG partner Ben Blustein led a skilled team of attorneys from the Collins Law Firm, Dugan Schlozman LLC, Public Citizen Litigation Group, Legal Aid Justice Center, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in two court actions. They refiled Ms. Reyes-Hernandez’s personal injury claim in Missouri state court, and concurrently filed a federal law claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, a 1866 statute enacted post-Civil War to guarantee “all persons” in the United States, including non-citizens, equal rights in the making and enforcing of contracts and participating in lawsuits.
As part of the Reyes-Hernandez settlement, Monsanto has agreed “to neither seek nor accept any provision in future Roundup settlement agreements that permits immigration status or citizenship to be a factor in assessing any claimant’s eligibility to participate in any settlement, or in determining the amount awarded.”
The federal court case is Elvira Reyes-Hernandez v. Monsanto Company, et al., 23-cv-1 (W.D. Va.). The state case is Elvira Reyes-Hernandez v. Monsanto Company, et al., 22SL-CC03416 (Circ. Ct. of St. L. County).