According to U.S. Right to Know, an investigative public health research group, dozens of law firms across the U.S. have formed a coalition to fight Bayer’s proposed $2 billion settlement plan to resolve future Roundup cancer lawsuits.
Bayer’s settlement proposal covers Roundup users who have not yet filed a claim against Monsanto, the crop- and seed-sciences company that invented the Roundup weed killer brand, which Bayer acquired in 2018 for $63 billion. Bayer also inherited Monsanto’s Roundup litigation. In an effort to make the legal hassles go away, in June 2020, Bayer announced it would settle approximately 100,000 Roundup claims that up until that point had already been filed—for nearly $11 million.
Plaintiffs who have filed Roundup cancer claims have alleged that long-term usage of the herbicide caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bayer’s proposal to settle future claims still needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who in July 2020, rejected Bayer’s initial proposal to settle future Roundup claims.
Bayer’s plan B future settlement proposal includes assisting class members with legal assistance for claim filing; providing information about the settlement, including in Spanish due to the fact that many plaintiffs are Spanish-speaking farmworkers; coverage of legal fees for plaintiffs; as well as two elements that were part of the original class settlement agreement: research and testing programs relating to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Why Are Lawyers Opposed To The Roundup Settlement?
However, many lawyers are criticizing the plan, saying that if Bayer’s settlement plan were approved, “It would set a dangerous precedent for other types of litigation involving large numbers of people injured by the products or practices of powerful corporations,” says U.S. Right To Know.
One attorney involved in Roundup litigation, Gerald Singleton, told U.S. Right To Know, “This is not the direction we want the civil justice system to go. There is no scenario under which this is good for plaintiffs.” Singleton’s firm has joined with roughly 60 others to oppose Bayer’s settlement plan.
Singleton added that the plan is not fair to farmworkers and others who develop cancer as a result of exposure to the herbicide because of a four-year “standstill” period, in which no new lawsuits will be able to be filed.
In addition, lawyers representing Roundup users maintain that notifying people of the class settlement is insufficient. This is because individuals would have 150 days following the notification to “opt out” of the class; they are automatically added to the class if they do not opt out.
Singleton and other attorneys also oppose Bayer’s scientific panel. Part of Bayer’s initial settlement proposal, the scientific panel would decide if Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, and the inert ingredients that make glyphosate more active, are carcinogenic. In Bayer’s plan B proposal for future Roundup claims, the scientific panel’s rulings would be non-binding. Bayer would be able to appoint some of the members on the scientific panel. However, attorneys representing Roundup users accuse Monsanto of deliberately hiding the potential risks of glyphosate exposure. Therefore, plaintiff attorneys do not trust that the scientific panel could execute impartial findings.
U.S. Right To Know says that the initial $2 billion settlement period would run for approximately four years. It could then be extended after that period. Bayer’s revised plan also includes an additional $200 million “end payment” fund, should the company elect not to extend the compensation fund.
Roundup users who have yet to file a claim and eventually develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who eventually sue have the right to opt out of the settlement, provided they do so within a specific time period. However, lawyers opposed to Bayer’s proposal object to the fact that plaintiffs would be barred from seeking punitive damages if they file a lawsuit in the future.
Who Is Eligible To Receive The Roundup Settlement?
U.S. Right To Know reported other details of the settlement plan. Users of Roundup must have first been exposed to the herbicide a minimum of 12 months before their diagnoses to be considered eligible for the settlement.
How Much Will Roundup Class Members Receive?
Roundup users who are part of the class action who do not opt out of the settlement will receive awards from $5,000 to $200,000. Class members diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma before January 1, 2015, according to the plan, will not receive an award exceeding $10,000.
Members can still receive individual compensation and sue Monsanto/Bayer in the future, provided they opt out of the class settlement.
How Will Roundup Users Get Notified Of the Settlement?
Via mail and email, Bayer will alert roughly 266,000 farms, businesses, organizations, and government agencies. These entities chosen by Bayer to receive the notifications may have used Roundup. Additionally, notices will be sent to the over 40,000 people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who have previously expressed interest in receiving information about their condition.
Will Bayer Have To Put A Warning Label On Roundup?
At present, Bayer has no plans to request that the EPA place a warning label on Roundup products. However, as part of the settlement plan, the company says it will add a website link to scientific studies and information about glyphosate safety on Roundup labels. The company said it will also send posters to nearly 3,000 stores that will inform consumers about the settlement. Read the full report by U.S. Right to Know here.