Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a method used by courts to merge lawsuits. Unlike a class action lawsuit, individual cases remain separate in an MDL. However, certain phases of litigation are combined for all the lawsuits. This speeds up the process of trying hundreds of similar cases.
In 2018, Bayer AG bought Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup weed killer. Along with rights to the herbicide, Bayer inherited the company's growing number of lawsuits concerning the weed killer. The plaintiffs in these inherited lawsuits claim there is a link between Roundup and cancer. Last week, Bayer agreed to a $10.9 billion settlement to resolve the majority of these cases.
Bayer Faces Thousands of Lawsuits
Bayer AG bought Monsanto a month before the first Roundup bellwether trial started. The pharmaceutical giant was forced to defend its new product through three high-profile cases and subsequent defeats.
Roundup Losses for Bayer
Bayer and Monsanto appealed the court's decision for each of these verdicts. In the case of Dewayne Johnson, Monsanto was able to secure reduced punitive damages. However, the company was not able to reverse the decision entirely.
Following the third unfavorable verdict, Bayer sought mediation to settle the growing number of Roundup lawsuits in multidistrict litigation. Bayer made this decision in part to handle the mounting concerns of its shareholders.
Bayer Looks to Settle Roundup Cancer Claims
In April 2019, Judge Vince Chhabria, the judge overseeing the Roundup MDL, ordered Bayer and the plaintiffs to find a mediator. The two sides appointed Kenneth R. Feinberg. Feinberg is known for his work with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
Since his appointment, Feinburg has worked toward a potential settlement to resolve the remainder of pending Roundup lawsuits. Some believe the recent settlement agreement was affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With courts closed, plaintiffs may have been more apt to consider alternatives to litigation.
Details of the Roundup Settlement
Bayer AG is willing to pay up to $10.9 billion to settle the pending claims against its weed killer. Between $8.8 and $9.6 billion will be used to settle current claims. However, the settlement includes a cushion of $1.25 billion for future litigation.
Through this settlement, individual claimants will be awarded anywhere from $5,000 to $250,000 depending on the details of their case. At its max, this settlement is a far cry from the $2 billion awarded to a single couple in the third bellwether trial. Claimants will avoid the hassle of a trial, but this deal benefits Bayer more than individuals suing the company.
In my experience, all those cases that have not yet been settled will quickly be resolved by settlement. I will be surprised if there are any future trials.The New York Times
This $10.9 billion settlement will not resolve every lawsuit against Bayer. Roughly 25,000 claims remain unresolved. However, Feinburg is confident these pending cases will be settled as well.
The $10.9 billion figure does not affect the appeals process of the three initial court losses. The company also faces numerous lawsuits related to its other products.
The Fate of Roundup Weedkiller
Despite settling thousands of Roundup cancer claims, Bayer AG and Monsanto continue to deny liability and wrongdoing. According to a company spokesman, "Bayer will continue selling Roundup and will not add a cancer warning label to the product."
Judge Chhabria must now review the settlement agreement and approve it before any further action can be taken.