In a much-anticipated settlement announcement, Bayer AG took a major step towards resolving the massive litigation it inherited when it acquired Roundup manufacturer Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018. There are currently 125,000 individual lawsuits that have been filed against Roundup in state and federal courts around the nation. The $11 billion settlement agreement includes about 95,000 cases leaving around 30,000 claims still pending. Plaintiff’s attorneys are still working hard to get additional cases ready for trial. Just last week one firm filed 13 cases on behalf of children who developed Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after exposure to Roundup in backyards, parks and playgrounds. The minor plaintiffs in these cases range in age from 5 to 17.
While Bayer and its shareholders are eager to put the legal issues to rest, some believe the settlement is far from the end of the story. Roundup remains on store shelves and neither the formula nor the warning labels have changed at all. Bayer continues to claim that glyphosate is safe and there is no scientific evidence it causes Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or any other type of cancer. Changing the warning label or the chemical formula of Roundup could be viewed as a tacit admission by Bayer that Roundup is unsafe. Even with the settlement, Bayer executives stand by their claims that glyphosate is not a carcinogen and is completely safe for consumer and institutional use in its current form. However, recognizing the potential for future liability, the settlement reserves $1.5 billion for future claims.
Due to the company’s position, consumers are still at risk and remain vulnerable to the potential harm caused by Roundup. Bayer’s legal strategy involves settling cases rather than enduring years of jury trials and the bad publicity the trials would manifest. Many of the hold out cases could very well end up going to trial if Bayer is not able to bring them into the settlement.
Future Liability for Bayer
Over 30,000 Cases Remain Unsettled
Several prominent attorneys who did not agree to the settlement believe the current value per case is insultingly low based on the damages sustained by their clients. Jim Onder, a St. Louis attorney whose firm represents 24,000 unsettled cases had the following to say.
“THE UNSETTLED LEGAL EXPOSURE FOR BAYER COULD EASILY EXCEED TENS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS AS OUR FIRM AND OTHERS HAVE REJECTED THE MINUSCULE OFFERS ACCEPTED BY SOME OTHER LAWYERS. TO ACT AS IF ONE QUARTER OF THE ROUNDUP CANCER VICTIMS DON’T EXIST IS NOTHING MORE THAN A FLAGRANT ATTEMPT BY BAYER TO MANIPULATE ITS STOCK PRICE AND SERVES AS A SLAP IN THE FACE TO THOSE VICTIMS.”
If Onder is right, Bayer’s Roundup related potential liability could be staggering.
Another plaintiff’s attorney commented, “the settlement announcement feels like Bayer is trying to stop a gigantic problem by putting its finger in the proverbial dam. Everyday, new people are diagnosed with Roundup-induced cancer.” The attorney predicts, “there will be thousands and thousands of future cases because Bayer is currently still selling this dangerous product.”
Independent Study for Glyphosate – Cancer link
Bayer has agreed to contribute $1.3 billion to fund an independent study to determine whether science can link glyphosate to Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans. Critics note it is highly unlikely that a science panel heavily funded by Bayer can provide an unbiased answer to the important question of whether glyphosate is safe or acts as a carcinogen in the human body. In a recent interview, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann was enthusiastic about creating the science panel and looked forward to funding their work. The panel is not expected to release any scientific conclusions for at least 18 months giving Bayer time to continue to profit from Roundup sales in its current form.
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