Bayer appears to be “welshing” on the $10.9 billion deal it struck in June to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits over its Roundup weedkiller, the California federal judge overseeing the Roundup multidistrict litigation opined Thursday during a Zoom hearing. Lawsuits from cancer victims allege Roundup causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Bayer announced on June 24 that it had resolved three-quarters of the 125,000 Roundup cancer claims. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California, who is overseeing the Roundup multidistrict litigation (MDL) imposed a 90-day stay on the litigation while details of the settlement were worked out.
But according to “several” confidential letters Judge Chhabria received from plaintiffs’ attorneys, Bayer is reneging on its end of the deal. Some of the attorneys requested the judge lift the stay on Roundup litigation and schedule more cases for trial.
Bayer’s attorney told the judge that the parties had hit “a speed bump” in settlement negotiations that put plans temporarily on hold, and as a result, only 667 cases in the MDL had been settled in theory, but none had been fully resolved.
Judge Chhabria took issue at the news, pointing out that 667 cases were just a drop in the bucket of the more than 4,000 in the MDL. Referencing Bayer’s June settlement announcement, he said “I took all of that to mean the MDL is settled … maybe there was no deal in the first place.”
He also said that had he known that a since-withdrawn $1.25 billion class action settlement was a pawn in the global settlement, he would not have agreed to pause the litigation. That deal was also announced in June, but both parties withdrew the proposal in July after Judge Chhabria said the constitutionality of the plan was on shaky ground because it would have relied on a panel of scientists to determine whether Roundup causes cancer rather than a judge and jury.
“What I am concerned about is that Monsanto may be manipulating this litigation process to its advantage somehow,” Judge Chhabria said at the hearing, and that leaving the stay in place would be complicit in “whatever shenanigans are taking place on the Monsanto side.”
Judge Chhabria elaborated, “My only concern is that I don’t want the litigation to be used as a pawn in settlement negotiations, either way. I don’t want them to manipulate, or take advantage, and use to their advantage a stay in litigation, and I don’t want lifting of the stay to prompt litigation.”
Instead, Judge Chhabria gave a Sept. 24 deadline for attorneys to either work out a settlement or come up with an alternative plan for further litigation.
Rhon Jones, who along with John Tomlinson and Jere Beasley of Beasley Allen, is part of the firm’s Roundup litigation team, had been skeptical about the deal from the start. “We did not resolve cases for our clients at the time Bayer announced this settlement back in June because it lacked transparency and we felt Bayer was not serious about resolving cases for our clients,” he said. “The hearing yesterday confirmed this.”
Beasley Allen lawyers are currently representing clients who have been exposed to Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Our Roundup Litigation Team would welcome the opportunity to speak with you regarding a potential claim. For more information, contact one of the members of the Roundup Litigation Team: John Tomlinson (who heads up the team), Michael Dunphy, Danielle Ingram or Rhon Jones, all lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section.