What is Roundup?
Roundup lawsuits are mounting against Bayer. Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world and the second-most used weed killer for home and garden, government and industry, and commerce. It was introduced commercially by Monsanto Company in 1974 and acquired by Bayer in 2018. It is used by landscapers, farmers, groundskeepers, commercial gardeners and even home gardeners. Roundup lawsuits claim that the herbicide contains glyphosate, a probable carcinogen, which caused consumers to develop a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Monsanto introduced Roundup in 1974. There are now dozens of varieties of Roundup including Roundup Ready-to-Use, Roundup for Lawns, and Roundup Max Control. There are also several other brands and generics that sell glyphosate products. Roundup continues to hold the largest share of the market, though generic competition is closing in.
The primary ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, a chemical that kills weeds by blocking proteins essential to plant growth. It is easy to use and effective at killing pesky weeds like poison ivy, kudzu, and dandelions.
Agricultural use of glyphosate increased sharply since crop seeds were genetically modified to make them resistant to the herbicide. Glyphosate is now used in more than 160 countries with more than 1.4 billion pounds applied each year. About 100 million pounds are used on U.S. farms and lawns annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In its pure form, benzene is a colorless or pale-yellow liquid that is highly flammable and evaporates into the air very quickly. Benzene fumes and vapor are denser and heavier than oxygen, so airborne concentrations of the chemical may settle into low-lying areas.
In 2015, Monsanto made nearly $4.76 billion in sales and $1.9 billion in gross profits from its herbicide products, in particular, Roundup.
In June 2018, Bayer successfully completed the acquisition of Monsanto for $63 billion, making Bayer the sole owner of Monsanto Company. The integration of Monsanto into Bayer will take several years, following approval from the United States Department of Justice and the completion of divestments to BASF.
Does Roundup Cause Cancer?
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s specialized cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), listed glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and pointed to evidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma from human exposure to glyphosate, mostly from agricultural means, in the United States, Canada and Sweden since 2001.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system. If left untreated, non-Hodgkin lymphoma can spread to other parts of the lymph system. Eventually, the disease can spread to other parts of the body, including the liver, brain or bone marrow.
Limited regulation of research on the effects of glyphosate on humans in the U.S. has also limited the available data. But a study published in 2003 in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine involving more than 3,400 Midwest farm workers found that workers exposed to glyphosate had higher rates of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Studies involving laboratory animals have suggested that glyphosate has the potential to be carcinogenic.
Studies suggest that glyphosate can also have non-cancerous effects including developmental and reproductive problems including abnormal fetal development, low birth weights, and miscarriages. Other health risks associated with glyphosate exposure include liver and kidney damage. Some countries have banned the use of the herbicide due to health concerns.
In January 2020, despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refused to classify glyphosate as dangerous despite the WHO listing it as a “probable carcinogen,” concerns from environmental and consumer watchdog groups, and juries in numerous Roundup lawsuits finding otherwise.
Following the EPA’s decision, Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, told Reuters, “Unfortunately American consumers cannot trust the EPA assessment of glyphosate’s safety.”
Public interest group U.S. PRIG said, “This conclusion [by the EPA] places greater emphasis on evidence from studies submitted by companies who sell glyphosate-based herbicides to fulfill regulatory requirements, while WHO’s conclusion is based primarily on independent, peer-reviewed research, which is standard practice in the scientific community.”
Roundup Cancer Lawsuit Timeline
Dozens of Roundup lawsuits filed against Monsanto were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
The cases were filed against Monsanto by farmers, landscapers, and their families. They claim that their glyphosate exposure contributed to the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
July: U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the cases in the consolidated Roundup lawsuit.
August: a San Francisco Superior Court jury awarded former area groundskeeper DeWayne Johnson $289 million.
Mr. Johnson, 46, claimed he developed terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after spraying Roundup as often as 30 times a day in a four-year span of groundskeeping work. The award in this first Roundup lawsuit was later reduced to $78 million.
March: a federal jury in San Francisco found that Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup was “a substantial factor” in causing plaintiff Edwin Hardeman, a 70-year-old Santa Rosa man, to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Mr. Hardeman’s Roundup lawsuit was the first to be tried in federal court. In the second phase of the trial, jurors weighed issues of liability and awarded Mr. Hardeman $80 million, which included $200,967 in economic damages, about $5 million in future and past noneconomic damages, and $75 million in punitive damages.
Because it’s the first such federal case, its trial is considered a bellwether that could indicate and influence the direction of future trials. Two more bellwether cases will be tried this year in the same court.
May 13: A California jury awarded one of the most significant Roundup lawsuit verdicts: $2.055 billion to a couple who sued Monsanto alleging its Roundup weed killer caused them to develop an aggressive form of cancer after decades of treating their properties with the glyphosate-based herbicide.
Like thousands of other people seeking health-related damages from Monsanto, plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod suffer from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a form of cancer affecting the body’s lymph nodes, blood cells, and immune system. During the five-week trial, their lawyer told the jury that had the Pilliods known Roundup could cause cancer, they would have “never touched” it.
The jury awarded the couple $55 million in non-economic and economic damages and hit the agrochemical giant with $1 billion in punitive damages for each of the plaintiffs. The Pilliod case was the third of some 13,000 Roundup lawsuits to go to trial in the United States. Most of those cases are in state courts.
On June 24, 2020, Bayer announced that it would pay up to $10.9 billion to settle about three-quarters of the 125,000 Roundup cancer claims the company faced. With a settlement close at hand, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California–who is overseeing the Roundup MDL–imposed a 90-day stay on the litigation while details of the settlement were worked out.
According to several confidential letters Chhabria received from plaintiffs’ attorneys, Bayer was reneging on its end of the deal. Some attorneys urged Chhabria to lift the stay on litigation so plaintiffs could have their day in court. Bayer’s attorneys claimed they had hit a “speed bump” during settlement negotiations that slowed down the settlement process. That argument didn’t sit well with Chhabria, and he gave a Sept. 24, 2020, deadline for attorneys to either work out a settlement or come up with an alternative plan for further litigation.
Rhon Jones, part of our firms Roundup litigation team, had been skeptical about the deal from the start:
“We had not resolved 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. The hearing … confirmed this.”
Less than two weeks before the Sept. 24 deadline, Bayer announced it had settled 15,000 more Roundup lawsuits, bringing the number of resolved Roundup cases to about 45,000.
At least 30,000 Roundup lawsuits won’t be resolved in Bayer’s Roundup settlement.
Roundup Settlement Delays
Tens of thousands of lawsuits were filed against Bayer alleging the company failed to warn consumers that exposure to Roundup could cause cancer. The agrichemical giant lost a series of trials beginning shortly after its acquisition of Monsanto in 2018 before finally, in June 2020, announcing that it would pay up to $10.9 billion to settle most of the 125,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits it faced.
Plaintiffs who agree to the terms of the settlement can expect to receive payments of $5,000 to $250,000, based on the strength of their case, according to the New York Times. Consumers who used Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, B-cell leukemia, T-cell leukemia, or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) may be eligible for the Roundup settlement.
The settlement amounts hardly cover the kind of expenses someone with Roundup cancer faces, public interest group U.S. PRIG argued. According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the mean cost of a six-month treatment for aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma tops $85,000. That doesn’t leave much room for lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses Roundup victims and their families face. There are at least 30,000 Roundup lawsuits filed by consumers who have not agreed to the Roundup settlement terms.
Meanwhile, Bayer continues to sell Roundup despite its link to cancer, and the company still isn’t warning consumers about the risk of cancer from exposure to the herbicide. It can take years for Roundup exposure to develop into a cancer diagnosis.
Beasley Allen is still taking cases of newly diagnosed cancer after Roundup use despite Bayer’s Roundup settlement.
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 Rhon Jones, Head of our Toxic Torts Section.
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