One of the most well known mass tort cases filed in the last few years involve RoundUp, a weed killer made by Monsanto. When the Monsanto RoundUp lawsuits were first filed, Monsanto denied that their product had any link to cancer.
RoundUp is a weed killer used by both individuals and commercial landscapers. Plaintiffs in the Monsanto cases claimed that glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, caused non-Hodgkins lymphoma. This is a type of cancer. Of course, Monsanto denied that glyphosate was harmful to humans.
After over a thousand lawsuits had been filed, Monsanto was purchased by Bayer for $63 billion. Once Bayer became involved, they decided to do some independent research into whether or not it was in their best interest to consider settling the Monsanto RoundUp lawsuits. Finally, after over two years of litigation, there is finally talk that Bayer is considering offering to settle the more than 13,400 cases that have been filed against them.
Litigation History of the Monsanto RoundUp Lawsuits
While there had been news stories about the Monsanto litigation, not many people paid a lot of attention to it until a California court heard the case of Dewayne Johnson. In summer of 2018, a jury found for Johnson and awarded him close to $300 million in damages.
Months later, Monsanto appealed the damages portion of the ruling in Johnson’s case. The judge found that, while Monsanto was still liable for the plaintiff’s illness, the damages assessed were a bit high. Rather than go through another hearing regarding damages, Johnson agreed to there being no punitive damages in his case. More than likely, this decision had more to do with Johnson’s being near death than anything else.
In March of this year, the first federal Monsanto case was heard on behalf of the plaintiff, 70-year old Edwin Hardeman. As with Johnson’s case, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him, in part, $80 million in punitive damages alone.
Recently, the judge in this case, Judge Vince Chhabria, stated that he would more than likely reduce this punitive damages award. However, this didn’t change the fact that Monsanto had lost it’s second RoundUp lawsuit.
What Sparked Settlement Talks?
When Bayer bought Monsanto, the RoundUp litigation was already well underway. In the months following the Edwin Hardeman trial, Bayer watched its stock value go down by almost 20%. The shareholders, along with executive leadership at Bayer, finally decided it may be time to consider a settlement.
Bayer hired an external attorney to evaluate the case and the evidence against them in the Monsanto RoundUp lawsuits. They also created a committee to evaluate whether or not a settlement was prudent in this litigation. Since the end of June, Bayer has been considering which direction they should take in the RoundUp litigation.
On June 26, 2019, Bayer made an announcement that they are leaning toward a settlement. They saw their stock value increase by over 8% the very next day. This was the biggest stock increase they’ve seen in over a decade. Clearly, both the company and the shareholders understand that the writing’s on the wall. Now that two cases have gone to trial and both been decided in the plaintiff’s favor, it’s time for the defendant to consider settling.
More Damaging Evidence?
Bayer’s announcement couldn’t have come a moment too soon. On August 23, reports were released that Monsanto had actually collaborated with scientific journals to lie about the link between glyphosate and cancer.
In 2016, when the articles were written, the authors adamantly stated that there was no significant evidence linking RoundUp to non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The articles also denied that Monsanto had anything to do with writing the articles. In 2017, it was confirmed that this wasn’t true. Monsanto did have something to do with writing the articles and refused to issue a retraction.
Last week, emails were unearthed by the plaintiff’s attorneys in the Monsanto litigation. These emails proved that Monsanto refused to issue a retraction because they knew a retraction would hurt their chances in court. These emails also admitted that Monsanto was aware that glyphosate likely caused cancer. Yet, they continued to deny this publicly and insist that their product was safe.
With this new evidence, and the announcement made by Bayer in June, it is likely that a settlement in the RoundUp litigation is imminent. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court. It will also be interesting to see how such a settlement affects both Bayer’s stock value and the marketing of their products.
If you or a loved one have been injured by RoundUp, contact a mass tort attorney at Dalimonte Rueb Stoller today.