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As a court-appointed mediator continues to work with Bayer and plaintiffs lawyers to settle Roundup lawsuits filed by users of the controversial weedkiller who have developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation has agreed to push back various deadlines in the litigation and vacated a trial set to begin later this month.
Bayer and it’s Monsanto subsidiary currently face nearly 75,000 product liability lawsuits brought by individuals nationwide who claim that information about the cancer risk from Roundup has been withheld from consumers for decades.
Following massive losses in the first three cases to go before juries last year, Bayer has faced substantial pressure to negotiate Roundup settlements or another resolution that avoids additional trial dates set to begin throughout this year.
More than half a dozen state court cases have already been postponed amid continuing discussions between the parties and the prominent mediator Ken Feinberg, who has overseen many of the largest mass tort settlements in recent years, including the establishment of funds to resolve claims stemming from the BP oil spill, Volkswagen emissions scandal, General Motors ignition switch recall and others.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in claims filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, the federal Roundup litigation has been centralized in the Northern District of California, where U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria is presiding over coordinated discovery and a series of early bellwether trials designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the cases. In addition, several large waves of claims are being prepared for remand back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates.
In a pretrial order (PDF) issued on Thursday, Judge Chhabria agreed to extend all Roundup lawsuit deadlines by 35 days, at the request of the settlement master. In a separate order (PDF) issued the same day, the Court announced that a second bellwether trial, which was set to begin March 25, will not go forward. No new date was scheduled for the trial, and Judge Chhabria indicated that no further continuances would be granted for the deadlines for bellwether claims.
For months, there has been speculation that Bayer is close to reaching settlement agreements with certain lawyers that may resolve most of all of the Roundup litigation. However, when releasing earnings information last month, the company indicates that no deal has been reached and that there is no firm time-line for negotiations.
Analysts have predicted that any settlement would not only require billions in compensation for individuals already diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but the company will likely face continuing claims as other consumer continue to be diagnosed following prior exposure.