Just days after the $10 billion Roundup settlement seemed on the verge of collapsing, three law firms have signed master settlement agreements with Monsanto.
Whether or not the settlements will put an end to the largest mass tort proceedings in history (at least since asbestos), a legal saga that’s lasted for over five years? It’s too early to tell. However, in comparison to last week, when Bayer seemed to hint at the threat of bankruptcy if no deals were inked, the settlements mark a step in the right direction to put an end to the bulk of the 125,000 Roundup lawsuits, in which plaintiffs allege that the world’s best-selling herbicide, caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects white blood cells.
Bayer was accused by plaintiff’s attorneys for backing out of the historic $10 billion settlement, which would have covered approximately 95,000 existing settlements, plus another $1 billion which would have been set aside for future Roundup litigation.
However, the judge overseeing the settlement suggested he was going to reject Bayer’s plan to settle future Roundup cases. Bayer wanted to pause the filing of new Roundup litigation for four years. Furthermore, the German multinational wanted a scientific panel composed of five experts to rule whether or not glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides invented by Monsanto, causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The judge was concerned that this would take the power out of judges and juries, and because the science can evolve over the years, the judge was not in favor of Bayer’s idea that if the panel ruled there was not enough evidence of cancer causation, then no plaintiffs could file future lawsuits.
As a result, the judge essentially told Bayer to come up with a plan B to address future Roundup litigation. Details of Bayer’s revised future settlement plan is forthcoming.
The three law firms that signed settlement deals represent thousands of Roundup plaintiffs. One of the three firms, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, is the only firm to serve in all three Roundup cases which have thus far gone to trial, all three of which have been victorious for plaintiffs. Two of the three trial victories occurred last year, and were named in the Top 100 Verdicts of 2019 by the National Law Review.
Bayer, which acquired Roundup’s inventor, the Monsanto Corporation, in 2018, just as the first Roundup case was going to trial, is appealing all three decisions, which resulted in over $2 billion for the plaintiffs. (The awards were later reduced). Of the three trial victories, the first one tried was that of former groundskeeper Dwayne “Lee” Johnson. Initially awarded nearly $300 million by a San Francisco jury, Johnson’s award has twice been reduced, most recently to $20.5 million. Earlier this month, Bayer has asked the California Supreme Court to review Johnson’s lower court victory and award.