Bayer has struck an agreement to settle around 75 percent of current Roundup lawsuits in the United States. The German company also unveiled a plan to resolve future litigation stemming from its glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer.
Bayer Agreement Among Largest Settlements Ever
Bayer said in a statement on June 24 that it will pay $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to resolve current and potential future Roundup litigation. The deal resolves an estimated 95,000 of the 125,000 lawsuits that claim exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused plaintiffs to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Plaintiffs covered under the settlement include both those with filed cases and those who have retained attorneys and intend to sue but who have not yet filed cases.
The deal—worth $10.1 billion to $10.9 billion total—sets aside an additional $1.25 billion to support a separate class-action agreement for potential future litigation. However, the controversial class agreement is subject to court approval, and some plaintiff lawyers have indicated that they will challenge the terms.
Bayer CEO Warner Baumann, who has been fighting for his job since Bayer purchased Monsanto and inherited the Roundup lawsuits, called the settlement “the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end.”
The Bayer deal is one of the largest settlements ever in U.S. civil litigation. Fierce Pharma said Bayer’s cash settlement is the single largest settlement on record for a drugmaker, eclipsing the $10 billion deal signed by Purdue last year to resolve its opioid lawsuits. Still, Bayer might be forced to pay billions more to resolve Roundup litigation once and for all.
Roundup Lawsuit Uncertainty Remains for Bayer
The 30,000 unresolved cancer claims that aren’t part of the settlement will continue working their way through the court system. As one plaintiff’s lawyer told Bloomberg, “If Bayer and its investors thought the Roundup litigation was wrapped up in a nice, neat ball with this settlement, they are sadly mistaken.”
If prior verdicts are any indication, resolving the remaining cases could cost billions. In each of the three trials held so far, juries found that exposure to Roundup caused plaintiffs to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that Monsanto concealed the health risks. Juries awarded damages of $289 million, $80 million, and $2 billion, though judges later lowered the verdict amounts.
Then there is the issue of future claims alleging Roundup causes cancer. Bayer’s plan for resolving those claims involves the creation of an independent “Class Science Panel” that will determine whether Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and if so, at what minimum exposure levels. If the Class Science Panel finds no causal link between Roundup and NHL, class members will be barred from claiming otherwise in future litigation against Bayer.
The proposed settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge, would apply to anyone who files a lawsuit or retains a lawyer after June 24, 2020. It calls for a temporary pause on claim while the Panel deliberates, as well as a ban on punitive damages and medical monitoring claims related to Roundup exposure and cancer. Bayer would provide funding of up to $1.25 billion to support the arrangement, including NHL research and diagnosis and attorneys’ fees.
Even if a judge approves the plan, according to Carey Gillam of U.S. Right To Know, some law firms might challenge the settlement terms. A source told Gillam that, “It’s basically depriving a plaintiff of their constitutional right to a jury trial.”
Bayer continues to deny that glyphosate, Roundup’s main active ingredient, causes cancer. It appears optimistic that a panel of scientific experts would take its side in the years-long debate. The EPA ruled last year that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has deemed glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.”
Glyphosate, the most heavily used weed killer in history, remains on the market. A federal judge in California recently barred the state from adding a cancer warning for glyphosate-based herbicides.
Kenneth Feinberg, the chief settlement mediator in the Roundup litigation, said that there may be no new Roundup lawsuits until next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Feinberg predicts that all remaining cases will settle within a few months.
Sanders Phillips Grossman continues to fight for maximum compensation for our Roundup clients. You can learn more about Roundup lawsuits here.