A judge in California has postponed the second federal trial of a Monsanto Roundup lawsuit to give the parties more time to focus on ongoing settlement talks.
The trial was scheduled to get underway on March 23rd in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. No new date has been set.
“The order will provide room for the parties to continue the mediation process in good faith under the auspices of Ken Feinberg, and avoid the distractions that can arise from trials,” Bayer AG said in a statement issued last week. “While Bayer is constructively engaged in the mediation process, there is no comprehensive agreement at this time.”
The Court has also suspended all deadlines in the federal Roundup litigation for an additional 35 days.
Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in June 2018, is defending more than 43,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits in courts around the United States. The first federal bellwether trial concluded in March 2019, when a jury in the Northern District of California awarded $80 million to a home gardener who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following decades of Roundup use. However, the trial judge later reduced the verdict to $25 million to comply with California’s constitutional limits on punitive damages.
That verdict followed two earlier state court trials in which Roundup plaintiffs were awarded judgments of $289 million and $2 billion. Trial judges also reduced those awards and Bayer is appealing all three verdicts.
Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent attorney who previously led negotiations that resulted in the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and other high-profile legal settlements, was appointed to lead Roundup negotiations last year. Several other Monsanto Roundup trials had already been postponed to facilitate settlement talks, and last month, he expressed optimism that the massive litigation would be resolved.
Although Bayer continues to deny that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup, causes cancer, the company has indicated an openness to an “economically reasonable” settlement.
The Roundup cancer verdicts have caused Bayer’s stock to lose about 30% of its value over the last year-and-a-half, leaving investors less then pleased.
Late last month, Bayer chairman Werner Wenning announced he would be stepping down in April, citing progress in the Roundup settlement talks. The company also agreed to review its rules for approving mergers and acquisitions in light of investor dissatisfaction with the Monsanto acquisition.