In June, Bayer AG committed to the largest settlement in pharmaceutical history, agreeing to set aside up to $9 billion for roughly 95,000 Roundup Weed Killer Cancer lawsuits, plus another $1.25 billion or so for future litigation.
But after a district judge that’s presiding over the Roundup litigation received several confidential letters from plaintiff’s attorneys alleging that Roundup’s inventor, Monsanto, isn’t living up to its end of the bargain, the historic settlement is in jeopardy of falling through.
Monsanto was acquired by Bayer AG in 2018. After Bayer decided to settle Roundup lawsuits, which would theoretically take care of approximately 75% of all Roundup lawsuits, the judge, for 60 days, paused multidistrict litigation (MDL; a special federal legal procedure designed to speed the process of handling complex cases.)
In light of the letters from plaintiff’s attorneys (of which the judge claimed that they should be made public), the judge asked attorneys for Bayer if any of the approximately 95,000 cases had been settled. (This amounts to 75% of the total 125,000 Roundup lawsuits combined in California’s multidistrict litigation.)
The judge was told that a mere 667 lawsuits had reached a settlement only in principle. However, no deposits were made to initiate the settlements. According to Law360.com, an attorney for Bayer described the situation as “a speed bump” and “a slight hiccup” in negotiations.
In response to Bayer, the judge said he thought that the MDL had been settled. “Maybe there was no deal in the first place,” the judge told Bayer attorneys, per reporting by Law360.com.
Had he known that the settlement was contingent on the approval of a separate $1.25 billion class action settlement for future cases that has been withdrawn, the judge said he wouldn’t have degreed to pause litigation. A major reason why the future Roundup case deal fell through was because Bayer proposed to have scientists decide whether the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, causes the cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In a court of law, it’s juries and judges that rule on product liability, not a scientific panel.
Plaintiff attorneys told the judge that Bayer refused to sign a master service agreement, which would have finalized the settlements. One attorney, who represents over 2,000 cancer victims who used Roundup, said that Monsanto had terminated the settlement agreement.
“What I am concerned about is that Monsanto may be manipulating this litigation process to its advantage somehow,” said the judge, who has scheduled a status conference on the settlement for Sept. 24.
Thus far, only three Roundup lawsuits have gone to trial, with all three decisions resulting in trial wins and damage awards for the plaintiffs. Bayer is appealing all three decisions, including the well-publicized case of former groundskeeper, Dwayne “Lee” Johnson. These cases are not part of the original $10 billion settlement deal. As part of the original settlement deal, Bayer was not required to admit any wrongdoing.