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Following a hearing this week before the U.S. District Judge presiding over the federal Roundup litigation, a potential class action settlement proposed by Bayer to resolve future claims appears to be in doubt, as the court questions why the manufacturer doesn’t add warnings about the risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma from Roundup as part of its plan to stem the tide of future cases.
Bayer and it’s Monsanto unit have faced more than 120,000 Roundup lawsuits brought by former users diagnosed with cancer following use of the glyphosate-based weed killer.
Each of the claims raised raised similar allegations, indicating Monsanto has ignored Roundup’s cancer risk for decades, and engaged in reprehensible conduct by withholding warnings from consumers and the scientific community for decades.
After a series of massive jury verdicts in early “bellwether” cases that went to trial, Bayer has engaged in an effort to reach Roundup settlements to resolve individual claims. However, the company continues to sell Roundup without any cancer warnings on the product label, and new claims continue to be filed by former users who are just learning about the risk.
Proposed Roundup Settlement For Class Action Claims
Given common questions of fact and law raised in lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, the federal Roundup litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California for several years, including individual claims and Roundup class action lawsuits filed on behalf of consumers exposed to the weed killer who have not yet developed any injury.
Over the last year, Bayer has indicated it plans to pay $11.6 billion in settlements to resolve all Roundup claims, including a $2 billion fund set aside to resolve future cases diagnosed through a class action settlement, which requires court approval.
Under the proposed Roundup class action settlement, new plaintiffs would be prevented from filing complaints for a four year period, during which time a “science panel” will review the evidence about the link between the weed killer and cancer. In addition, future plaintiffs who reject proposed settlements offered through the fund would be barred from seeking punitive damages at trial, cutting off the potential for the type of massive verdicts returned by early juries, who added millions to awards that were intended to punish Monsanto for recklessly disregarding the health of consumers.
During a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Chhabria expressed concerns about the proposed resolution, which has been opposed by a number of consumer groups, arguing that individuals not yet diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can not effectively make a decision to opt-out of this class action settlement.
Judge Chhabria raised questions about Bayer’s hesitance to add a warning label to Roundup, indicating that if it wanted to cut off future claims for failing to warn, the company could add information to the label. He also noted that most proposed class action settlements that would prevent plaintiffs from future filings involve a product that has been removed from the market, or where a label warning has been added that justifies blocking those potential future claims.
The Court also raised concerns over whether the proposed settlement would stand up to a Supreme Court review, and whether the science panel’s findings could be binding in other courts. Judge Chhabria indicated it will be some time before he renders a final decision about the settlement agreement, unless the parties decide to withdraw the proposal, which they have already done one other time to address concerns raised by a number of consumer groups and legal advocates.