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As reports continue to suggest that Bayer is working to settle Roundup cases, claims involving at least six different individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following exposure to the controversial weedkiller are scheduled for trial to begin over the next week.
Bayer currently faces more than 43,000 Roundup lawsuits nationwide, each involving allegations that its Monsanto subsidiary withheld information about the cancer risk associated with the weedkiller for decades, ignoring evidence that exposure increases the risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Following massive losses in the first three cases to go before juries last year, Bayer has faced substantial pressure from investors and approaching trial dates to negotiate a resolution, to avoid additional verdicts. However, it now appears that at least three separate trials will begin over the next seven days, involving six unrelated plaintiffs who will each present similar allegations that exposure to Roundup resulted in a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
A Roundup case filed by Kathleen Caballero is expected to begin today in Contra Costa Superior Court in California, involving allegations that Caballero developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma following regular use of Roundup from 1977 to 2018, both in her gardening and landscaping business, as well as while owning a farm where she grew peaches and sugar cane.
A second trial is expected to begin on Tuesday in St. Louis Circuit Court, involving four separate individuals diagnosed with the same injury following use of Roundup. That trial will be the first to involve multiple plaintiffs presenting their claims together, which will become increasingly common if Bayer fails to resolve the litigation, since the majority of all claims filed nationwide are pending in Missouri state court, where Monsanto’s U.S. headquarters were located before it was acquired by Bayer.
Another California trial is expected to begin just three days later in Riverside County Superior Court, involving claims by Treesa Cotton that she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2015, following use of Roundup around her property. As a result of the diagnosis, she claims that she new requires a private care giver and daily assistance of her family.
While each of these claims are expected to involve weeks of testimony, a fourth trial is scheduled to begin in the federal court system next month, on February 24, 2020, involving claims by Elaine Stevick, who developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2014, after years of mixing and spraying Roundup with her husband on their property. Although her husband, Christopher, is only expected to present claims for loss of consortium in that federal trial, court filings indicating that he has recently been diagnosed with the same type of cancer, and will also pursue a separate claim for his own injuries.
The Stevick trial will be the second of two planned federal “bellwether” trials, before the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation begins remanding large “waves” of cases back to various U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates.
Roundup Settlement Discussions
Last year, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the federal litigation ordered the parties to engage in a mediation process 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.
According to a report by Bloomberg News earlier this week, Feinberg has indicated that he is “cautiously optimistic” a deal will be reached in about a month.
Reports suggest Bayer is discussing group settlements with certain law firms, but it appears the manufacturer has been unable to resolve the claims with lawyers involved in the series of pending trials.
While the outcome of these trial dates will not have a binding impact on any other claims, if Bayer is hit with additional verdicts, it may substantially increase the cost of any global settlement. Yet if certain individual plaintiffs fail to establish that their specific cancer was caused by exposure to Roundup, it is unlikely to slow down the pace of the litigation, as thousands of additional claims will be going before other juries in the coming months and years.
Further complicating the litigation for Bayer, analysts have predicted that any Roundup 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.