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Roundup Cancer Lawsuits (May 14, 2020 Update)

Monsanto Roundup weed killer lawsuits are the biggest mass tort in the country.  Lawyers everywhere are looking for potential victims.  (August 2020 Update: This is no longer true.)

Our law firm is no exception.  Stunning verdicts and talk of a settlement in excess of $10 billion have poured even more gasoline on the fire.  What are these weed killer cases about and what can we expect moving forward?

Before we start that, there is something you need to know.  If you have a Roundup herbicide non-Hodgin’s lymphoma cancer case, call a Roundup cancer lawsuit attorney.  Not today.  Right now.  The Roundup settlement is on hold and more cases are being filed.  But you want to get in before the settlement, not after (not to mention the possible statute of limitations issues)

roundup cancer lawsuitsMay 14, 2020 Roundup Update

Bayer is now trying to get a haircut on the settlement.  Why?  The coronavirus, of course.  Here is there statement:

We’ve made progress in the Roundup mediation discussions, but the COVID-19 dynamics, including restrictions imposed in recent weeks, have caused meeting cancellations and delayed this process … As a result, the mediation process has significantly slowed, and realistically, we expect this will continue to be the case for the immediate future. During this time, we will continue to do whatever we can to help combat the global COVID-19 pandemic, consistent with our vision of ‘health for all, hunger for none.’ We cannot speculate about potential outcomes from the negotiations or timing, given the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and the confidentiality of this process, but we remain committed to engaging in mediation in good faith.

The long and short of it is that Bayer AG could have had most of these cases settled for much less three years ago.  They gambled and lost. But they managed to find a settlement path that really saved the company.  Now they want to take advantage of COVID-19 to save a few billion.  This is their legal right when the ink is not dry on the settlement.  But walking away from settlement talks could be both a disaster for plaintiffs and the road to bankruptcy for Bayer.  I suspect Bayer’s lawyers keep advising the company to roll the dice.  Again.  I think if this is the path they want to take, juries have many more lessons to teach them.

Ultimately, I think judges will prioritize these cases when the courts finally reopen post-COVID-19.  At that point, Bayer will be reminded that this litigation is a threat to its very existence.

The Crux of the Roundup Litigation

A key ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has been associated with several cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hairy cell leukemia, and multiple myeloma.  Our law firm is not taking multiple myeloma lawsuit, unfortunately.  (Could this change?  It could.)

This concern has caused public outrage by consumers who have been using Roundup for years or even decades.  Monsanto vigorously found the possibility that Roundup causes cancer. After Bayer purchased Monsanto, Bayer grabbed the torch of defending the safety of the produce.

Undeterred, lawyers filed thousands of lawsuits from victims who claim Roundup failed to warn of the possible risks with glyphosate and that the chemical ultimately caused their cancer.

In 2016, after cases began to pile up against the company, a federal judiciary panel created a Roundup MDL, which is a “sort of” class action of all the Roundup cases in federal court.  This had the great benefit of allowing plaintiffs’ attorneys to work together to develop the facts and the science behind the glyphosate claims.

The first Roundup verdict came in August 2018 when jurors awarded a plaintiff with terminal cancer $289 million in damages to a groundskeeper exposed glyphosate weed killer.  The jury found that Roundup was a substantial factor in Dewayne Johnson’s Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  Importantly, $250 million of that award was punitive damages.  What does that tell you?  It tells you that the jury was angry.

That amount stunned everyone. Me included.  Immediately, Bayer’s stock plummeted as the company began truly digesting, maybe for the first time, what the litigation exposure they had in these cases.

In February 2019, the first federal court case from the Roundup MDL went to trial and ordered Monsanto to pay out $80 million dollars. Only 3 months later, in May 2019, Monsanto was hit once again when jurors awarded a plaintiff with a staggering $2 billion dollars.  Sure, some of these verdicts have been reduced.  But the jurors are sending a loud message.

What Happens Next?

Currently, the manufacturer of Roundup, pharmaceutical giant Bayer, is seeking to settle the cases against them hoping they can put this experience behind them and return to usual business. Whether this will work out for them, however, is still unclear. Bayer reportedly offered $8 billion to settle 18,000 pending cases, but the plaintiff’s committee of attorneys seeks $10 billion.  But, like asbestos and other cases where the harm is not immediate with exposure, the cases will not stop. Additionally, the public outcry against Roundup is only getting stronger. Many won’t be satisfied until Roundup is taken off the market for good.

Here is the other issue that could blow up this settlement that Bloomberg wrote about recently.   Bayer wants this litigation over yesterday.  But, like I just said, there will be more cancer claims from this pesticide.  Someone said the other day — and I don’t know if it is true —  that 70% of the glyphosate that has been used in human history has been used in the last 10 years.  Think about that.  If the latency period is 10-15 years, how many more glyphosate-related claims are out there?

Bayer wants a settlement agreement that deprives people who have not even gotten cancer yet from their right to bring a claim down the road.  That will not happen, and it could be a problem. Still, I personally don’t think Bayer will hold up the settlement for anything.  They know this litigation is a threat to their very existence.  If that means swallowing and dealing with a smaller amount of claims down the road,  I think the bite that bullet.  But we could find out soon, hopefully in March 2020.

If My Case Settles, When Would I Get My Money?

Here is the bad news most people do not fully understand.  The settlement of mass tort cases is a time-consuming process and COVID-19 has made it that much worse. When you would get your settlement money is unknown.  But if I had to guess, I would say sometimes in 2021.

 

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