After thousands of lawsuits from cancer patients or their estates, the company behind Roundup weed killer is settling most of the current and possible future lawsuits for more than $10 billion.
Bayer, the German-based company that acquired agrochemical giant Monsanto in 2018, made the announcement Wednesday. It comes after years of litigation from cancer patients who claimed Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that Monsanto failed to adequately warn consumers of the risk.
The settlement of Roundup cases in the US “will bring closure to approximately 75% of the current Roundup litigation involving approximately 125,000 filed and unfiled claims overall,” Bayer said in a news release.
“The company will make a payment of $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to resolve the current Roundup litigation, including an allowance expected to cover unresolved claims, and $1.25 billion to support a separate class agreement to address potential future litigation.”
Potential future cases will be governed by a class agreement that’s subject to court approval, the company said.
Bayer said the settlement agreements “contain no admission of liability or wrongdoing.”
Of the thousands of Roundup lawsuits filed in federal or state courts, only three have gone to trial: those of cancer patients Dewayne Johnson, Edwin Hardeman and Alva and Alberta Pilliod.
In each of those trials, jurors sided with the plaintiffs, saying Roundup was a substantial contributing factor in causing the plaintiffs’ cancer.
And in each case, jurors awarded the plaintiffs tens of millions (or billions) of dollars – though judges later reduced those award amounts, saying they were too excessive.
Bayer has appealed the verdicts in each of those three trials. On Wednesday, the company said those cases “will continue through the appeals process and are not covered by the settlement.”
“It is important for the company to continue these cases as the appeals will provide legal guidance going forward,” Bayer said.
As for Roundup, Bayer said it will continue selling the weed killer because it stands by previous assertions that it’s safe when used as directed.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients started suing Monsanto by the hundreds after a 2015 World Health Organization report suggested glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, might cause cancer.
The report, by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, said glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
But Monsanto has long maintained that Roundup does not cause cancer and said the IARC report is greatly outnumbered by studies saying glyphosate is safe.
“Leading health regulators around the world have repeatedly concluded that Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic … including more than 100 studies (the) EPA considered relevant to its cancer risk analysis, and more than 800 safety studies overall submitted to regulators,” Bayer has said.
The American Cancer Society said with most cases of lymphoma, the cause is unknown.
But critics question whether Monsanto had a cozy relationship with regulators such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
A 2017 CNN investigation showed internal emails from Monsanto discussing communications with an EPA official.
In a 2015 email, a Monsanto executive wrote that an EPA official at the time offered to help stop another agency’s review of glyphosate, saying “If I can kill this, I should get a medal.”
A Monsanto spokeswoman responded at that time that the company has never paid, given gifts to or done anything else to curry favor with the EPA.