The pharmaceutical and seed/crop giant, Bayer AG, recently announced a revised plan to settle future Roundup weed killer cancer lawsuits for $2 billion. That’s on top of the approximately $11 billion the company has spent to settle approximately 100,000 out of 125,000 individual Roundup claims, in which plaintiffs allege that they developed rare cancers, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as a result of being exposed to Roundup while farming, gardening or landscaping.
The 10-plus-billion dollar settlement, which was announced in June 2020, is the single largest payout in pharmaceutical history. Bayer hopes the $13 billion or so it will pay to resolve claims that have already been filed, and for future ones, will finally put an end to the legal nightmares it inherited after acquiring Roundup inventor, the Monsanto Corporation for $63 billion in 2018.
However, at least one law firm that represents thousands of Roundup cancer victims, plans on pressing ahead with taking Bayer to trial.
The Dallas-based firm, Fears Nachawati, represents more than 4,000 individual plaintiffs, who have filed Roundup cases (almost exclusively in state courts). Lawyers at the firm say that efforts by Bayer to resolve lawsuits for pennies on the dollar mean one thing — thousands of cancer victims and their lawyers will continue to press forward to trial seeking justice.
“Rather than pursue a comprehensive resolution framework that would have addressed all pending lawsuits, Bayer’s strategy has been to negotiate separately with hundreds of law firms,” reads a press release by Fears Nachawati.
Some trial lawyers are opposed to the deal because they say Bayer is attempting to reduce liability and cost exposure “and kick the can down the road, all for the sake of pleasing shareholders.”
(As of January 25 of this year, Bayer’s stock was down 45% since the company lost the first of three Roundup trials that have gone to trial. The first trial was held in 2018; all three trials resulted in multi-million award judgements for the plaintiffs.)
Roundup cancer victims may also feel pressured to accept less than a favorable settlement due to courtroom delays caused by the pandemic, suggests attorneys with Fears Nachawati.
In addition, trial lawyers are less than thrilled with Bayer’s plan to resolve future lawsuits, which includes a scientific advisory panel to determine whether or not Roundup causes cancer. Under the proposed plan by Bayer, the company would be able to appoint two of the members on the scientific panel. Despite the fact that the scientific panel’s findings would not be binding, they could theoretically influence the jury’s decision.
Furthermore, trial lawyers representing Roundup cancer victims are opposed to the plan because, according to published reports, “law firms that were appointed to leadership in the federal multidistrict litigation already reached separate agreements that were higher and materially disproportionate to settlement offers for thousands of lawsuits that are still pending.”
In response to this arrangement, lead partner Majed Nachawati said, “We will not let that happen, as a coalition of law firms will continue to press forward to trial.”
According to the press release, trial lawyers are opposed to the settlement for another reason. They have voiced criticism of a related lawsuit filed by class-action lawyer Elizabeth Cabraser because going forward, it would limit the rights of personal injury victims to pursue damages based on their individual injury claims. Consequently, this would make it much more difficult for those harmed by Roundup to pursue legal recourse in the future.
“Bayer’s lawyers have seen what happens when juries hear this evidence. They think they can get away with this treatment because the pandemic has delayed the ability for cancer victims to go to trial,” Mr. Nachawati said. “We will not let that happen without a fight—plain and simple. We will continue to oppose any effort to limit the rights of each individual claimant to get to trial.”