Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent attorney leading mediation efforts aimed at resolving thousands of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits recently told a German magazine that the effort is progressing “slowly, but steadily.”
In an interview with WirtschaftsWoche last Wednesday, Feinberg indicated the parties are currently working to clarify all justified claims alleging glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Monsanto Roundup line of weed killers, caused cancer.
Glyphosate, the most popular weed killer in the world, was declared a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015, after an independent review linked occupational exposure to an increased risk of cancer, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
While Monsanto vehemently denied any link between glyphosate and cancer and mounted an aggressive campaign to discredit the WHO review, the declaration set off the current wave of litigation in the United States, where more than 42,000 Roundup lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts around the country.
Bayer AG inherited the massive and costly litigation in June 2018, when it acquired Missouri-based Monsanto for $63 billion. Monsanto Roundup lawsuit trials got underway shortly after the acquisition was finalized.
Just two months later, a San Francisco Superior Court jury convened for the nation’s first Roundup cancer trial awarded $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a former school district groundskeeper who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following decades of exposure to glyphosate. Since then, two other California juries have ordered Bayer to pay $80 million and $2 billion to Roundup cancer plaintiffs.
Trial judges ultimately reduced all three Roundup lawsuit verdicts, after finding punitive damages exceeded California’s constitutional limits on such awards. But they ultimately upheld the juries’ findings that glyphosate was a substantial factor in the plaintiffs’ cancer.
Bayer is appealing the verdicts and has promised to continue its vigorous defense of Roundup lawsuits. However, the company’s CEO has also suggested he would consider an economically reasonable settlement to bring the litigation to an end.
Bayer has lost around 30% of its value since acquiring Monsanto, mostly due to the fallout from Roundup lawsuits. According to Bloomberg News, analysts estimate resolving all claims could could cost Bayer as much as $20 billion. Some investors have suggested any Monsanto Roundup settlement less than $10 billion would be worth it.
Kenneth Feinberg was tapped to lead the Roundup settlement talks over the summer. He has previously guided negotiations for other high-profile legal settlements, including the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, Deepwater Horizon oil spill claims, and the GM ignition switch litigation.
All remaining Monsanto Roundup trials scheduled for this rest of the year have been postponed to allow the parties to focus on mediation. However, at least a dozen cases could go before juries in 2020, when the first trial is set to get underway in February in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. Additional Monsanto Roundup trials are also on docket in various state courts, including Missouri, Montana and Hawaii, as well as federal courts in Nebraska, Illinois, and North Carolina.