Roundup is a brand-name herbicide that contains the active ingredient glyphosate.
- Eye or Skin Irritation
- Burns in the mouth
Everything You Must Know About Round Up
Round Up Brief
When Bayer, the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical maker, acquired Monsanto two years ago, the company knew it was also buying the world’s best-known weedkiller. What it didn’t anticipate was a legal firestorm over claims that the herbicide, Roundup, caused cancer.
Now Bayer is moving to put those troubles behind it, agreeing to pay more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims while continuing to sell the product without adding warning labels about its safety.
The deal, announced Wednesday, is among the largest settlements ever in U.S. civil litigation. Negotiations were extraordinarily complex, producing separate agreements with 25 lead law firms whose clients will receive varying amounts.
“It’s rare that we see a consensual settlement with that many zeros on it,” said Nora Freeman Engstrom, a professor at Stanford University Law School.
Bayer, which inherited the litigation when it bought Monsanto for $63 billion, has repeatedly maintained that Roundup is safe.
Most of the early lawsuits were brought by homeowners and groundskeepers, although they account for only a tiny portion of Roundup’s sales. Farmers are the biggest customers, and many agricultural associations contend glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, is safe, effective and better than available alternatives.
The settlement covers an estimated 95,000 cases and includes $1.25 billion for potential future claims from Roundup customers who may develop the form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The company is taking a calculated risk that the benchmark settlement will largely resolve its legal problems. Bayer still faces at least 30,000 claims from plaintiffs who have not agreed to join the settlement.
Werner Baumann, Bayer’s chief executive, said that the two critical conditions for a settlement were that it was financially reasonable and that it would bring closure to the litigation.
“We are totally convinced” this does both, Mr. Baumann said in an interview on Wednesday. There is money put aside for existing claimants outside of the agreement, he said, and a structure to deal with future claimants that could emerge.
Fletch Trammell, a Houston-based lawyer who said he represented 5,000 claimants who declined to join, disagreed. “This is nothing like the closure they’re trying to imply,” he said. “It’s like putting out part of a house fire.”
But Kenneth R. Feinberg, the Washington lawyer who oversaw the mediation process, said he expected most current claimants to eventually sign on to the settlement.
“In my experience, all those cases that have not yet been settled will quickly be resolved by settlement,” said Mr. Feinberg, best known for running the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. “I will be surprised if there are any future trials.”
Bayer said the amount set aside to settle current litigation was $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion, including a cushion to cover claims not yet resolved. It said the settlement included no admission of liability or wrongdoing.
Individuals, depending on the strength of their cases, will receive payments of $5,000 to $250,000, according to two people involved in the negotiations.
The coronavirus outbreak, which has closed courts across the country, may have pushed the plaintiffs and the company to come to an agreement.
“The pandemic worked to the advantage of settlement because the threat of a scheduled trial was unavailable,” Mr. Feinberg said.
Talks began more than a year ago at the prompting of Judge Vince Chhabria of U.S. District Court in San Francisco, who was overseeing hundreds of federal Roundup lawsuits.
Judge Chhabria appointed Mr. Feinberg to lead negotiations for an agreement that would include all the cases, including thousands of others filed in state courts and other jurisdictions.
The $1.25 billion set aside for future plaintiffs will be applied to a class-action suit being filed in Judge Chhabria’s court on behalf of those who have used Roundup and may later have health concerns.
Part of the $1.25 billion will be used to establish an independent expert panel to resolve two critical questions about glyphosate: Does it cause cancer, and if so, what is the minimum dosage or exposure level that is dangerous?
If the panel concludes that glyphosate is a carcinogen, Bayer will not be able to argue otherwise in future cases — and if the experts reach the opposite conclusion, the class action’s lawyers will be similarly bound.
Pressure on Bayer for a settlement has been building over the past year after thousands of lawsuits piled up and investors grew more vocal about their discontent with the company’s legal approach.
Sources: NY Times
Talk With a Lawyer
Same Day Appointments are Available.