The federal judge overseeing thousands of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits has refused to appoint a separate lead attorney to represent class action plaintiffs in ongoing settlement negotiations.
Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, is defending more than 52,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits in courts around the United States, including more than 3,200 cases consolidated before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California.
The majority of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits were filed on behalf of individuals who allegedly developed various forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to exposure to glyphosate, the weed killer’s active ingredient. However, a significant number of class action complaints have also been filed on behalf of Roundup users who haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, but who seek compensation for medical monitoring in the future. Those complaints have yet to be certified.
Last May, Judge Chhabria appointed prominent attorney Kenneth Feinberg to oversee settlement discussions aimed at resolving the massive litigation. In seeking the appointment of a separate lead settlement counsel, the class action plaintiffs asserted their interests could diverge from those of the cancer claimants, because “for the current injured, the critical goal is generous immediate payments,” which can conflict with “the interest of exposure-only plaintiffs in ensuring an ample, inflation-protected fund for the future.”
But Judge Chhabria rejected that reasoning in an Order dated April 27th.
“But the motion presents no reason to believe that negotiations between Monsanto and the currently sick will impact any future negotiations between Monsanto and the exposure-only medical-monitoring class,” he wrote. “For example, and unlike the asbestos cases, the motion provided no evidence that these plaintiffs are competing over diminishing assets insufficient to discharge the potential liability. Nor does the motion advance any other interest that justifies departure from the standard order of operations for class actions.”
Monsanto Roundup is the most popular weed killer in the world. But in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen, after an independent review linked occupational exposure to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Three Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have already gone to trial. So far, every jury has ruled in favor of plaintiffs, with Bayer ordered to pay combined damages totaling $191 million. In recent months, the company has agreed to postpone several additional trials to allow the parties to focus on settlement negotiations.
Earlier this year, reports indicated Bayer was closing in on $10 billion settlement to resolve the personal injury claims. However, talks have slowed in recent weeks due to the global coronavirus pandemic.