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As settlement talks continue in attempt to resolve thousands of Roundup lawsuits brought by individuals nationwide diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following exposure to the controversial weedkiller, another trial initially expected to begin later this month has been postponed.
According to a report by the website U.S. Right To Know, a Roundup trial scheduled to begin on January 27 in St. Louis County Circuit has been postponed for a second time, further raising speculation that settlements may be near. However, a second case is still expected to go before a jury this month in St. Louis City.
The postponed Roundup trial involved a complaint filed by Sharlean Gordon, which was originally scheduled to begin in August 2019. The case was being closely watched, as it was expected to involve testimony by the former chairman and CEO of Monsanto, Hugh Grant, and may gauge how other St. Louis juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout more than 40,000 other claims being pursued against Bayer and it’s Monsanto subsidiary.
While the manufacturer has attempted to defend the safety of its widely used herbicide in several prior trials, it has not been successful in convincing a jury yet, and has been hit with massive verdicts in each case, including punitive damages that are designed to punish Monsanto for withholding information about the link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
As a result of the verdicts, Bayer has faced increasing pressure to negotiate Roundup settlements and avoid the uncertainty of additional trials.
Over the past few months, a mediation process has been underway with prominent attorney Ken Feinberg, who has guided some of the largest mass-tort settlements in recent years, including funds to pay claims related to the BP oil spill, Volkswagen emissions scandal, General Motors ignition switch recall, September 11th Victim Compensation fund and others. However, no agreements have yet been reached to avoid a series of trials slated to begin next year.
According to a report by Bloomberg News on January 10, Feinberg recently indicated that he is “optimistic” that a comprehensive settlement for the litigation can be reached.
While Bayer and Monsanto have been able to delay the start of the Gordon trial, avoiding another potential verdict that may increase the costs of any settlement, another trial is still expected to begin on January 21 in St. Louis City Circuit Court, according to the report by U.S. Right to Know.
At a hearing held yesterday, attorneys for Bayer urged the St. Louis judge presiding over that case not to allow cameras to broadcast the trial, indicating that Monsanto witnesses and lawyers have received threats on social media. However, it appears likely that the move is intended to limit the coverage of the trial, as the number of individuals who have stepped forward to present claims has increased dramatically following each of the prior court losses.
If settlements are not reached to resolve large numbers of claims in the coming weeks, the manufacturer is expected to face a steady stream of trial dates this year, including two “waves” of cases pending in the federal court system that are being prepared for remand back to different U.S. District Courts for individual trial dates.