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Roundup Continues: Latest Developments in the Weed Killer Cancer Controversy & Litigation

September 03 2019 | Blog
  • Facing lawsuits from more than 18,000 plaintiffs, Bayer may be ready for a settlement but new allegations cast further doubt over Monsanto’s honesty and reinforce concerns about Roundup’s safety.

    In April, we reported on a multimillion-dollar jury verdict in a groundbreaking case involving Roundup, a popular chemical weed killer produced by the Monsanto Company. The lawsuit linked regular use of the pesticide to the development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, dangerous cancer attacking white blood cells, in a 70-year old California resident. Since then, the controversy surrounding Roundup has only become greater, with thousands of more lawsuits against Monsanto flooding the courts across the country. In addition, new allegations of the company’s unethical meddling in scientific research on the pesticide’s safety have surfaced recently, casting even more doubt over Monsanto’s honesty and raising further concerns about Roundup’s effect on people’s health.

    In this article, we present a comprehensive summary of the most recent developments concerning the Roundup controversy. Read on to learn how you and your family may be affected and what legal action you may be entitled to take if you suspect you have suffered negative medical outcomes connected to Roundup use.

    Bayer in Mediation to Settle the Lawsuits

    Bayer, the German multinational pharmaceutical company that acquired Monsanto last year, is now reported to be engaged in mediation with the representatives of more than 18,400 individuals who have filed lawsuits in relation to Roundup. While Bayer continues to maintain that the pesticide doesn’t cause cancer in humans, according to Reuters, the company’s CEO may be willing to settle all the claims if presented with a “financially reasonable” settlement amount.

    In early August, some outlets informed that the pharmaceutical giant proposed to settle for $8 billion but the lawyers representing the plaintiffs demanded at least $10 billion. However, these claims were later refuted by Ken Feinberg, the mediator leading the settlement talks. Feinberg said that the mediation is still in its early stages and the issue of settlement amount hasn’t been discussed yet.

    Obstacles to a Quick Settlement

    In any case, achieving a quick and comprehensive settlement may be thwarted by the controversy that still surrounds Roundup’s safety. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs have argued that a warning label informing about the weed killer’s potential carcinogenic effect should be placed on the product. It seems that achieving a settlement may be impossible if Bayer doesn’t agree to fulfill this demand and the company is still unwilling to admit that Roundup may pose a cancer risk. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a regulatory body that controls the use of pesticides in the U.S., has previously rejected such labeling, maintaining that weed killers based on glyphosate – a chemical agent found in Roundup – are safe for humans.

    The direction the settlement talks may now take has become even more unpredictable due to recently surfaced allegations of Monsanto’s meddling in scientific research concerning the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate. These allegations come from internal communications between the publisher of the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology and the editor of the magazine. An exchange of emails that were obtained by plaintiffs’ lawyers demonstrates that the findings of 5 scientific papers on glyphosate safety published in the journal may have been compromised by Monsanto’s undue influence. The journal’s internal investigation showed that the authors of at least 3 of these papers had accepted money from Monsanto for their work even though the articles contained a disclaimer denying potential conflicts of interests. These leaked emails further undermine Monsanto’s ethics and honesty, and add additional weight to the plaintiffs’ claims.

    Jury Verdicts Reduced by Judges

    So far, there have been three high-profile trials against Monsanto involving allegations that prolonged Roundup use causes cancer. All three cases have ended with jury verdicts awarding the plaintiffs record-high compensations. For example, in May, a jury in Oakland, California, awarded Alva and Alberta Pilliod more than $2 billion in damages for injuries related to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma they developed after years of using Roundup on their property. Most of the compensation was awarded as punitive damages, that is, damages imposed to punish the defendant rather than compensate the victim’s injuries per se.

    However, the jury’s verdict was later appealed and the compensation amount was subsequently reduced by 95% by an Alameda County Superior Court Judge, leaving the couple with damages amounting to $86.7 million. Similarly, the compensation of $289 million awarded last year in the first-ever Roundup case in the U.S. to a former groundskeeper in California, who had also suffered from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, was later reduced to $78 million.

    Significantly, though, the judges who decided to reduce the initial compensation awarded in these cases didn’t question the validity of plaintiffs’ claims. For example, Winifred Y. Smith, the judge who reduced the $2 billion verdict to $86.7 million also said that she supported the jury’s findings that Monsanto was to blame for the couple’s cancer. This is significant because, even though the compensation amount awarded in both cases was reduced, the legal precedent created by these cases was not affected, giving other victims hope that their grievances will likewise be justly addressed.

    What’s Next for the Victims?

    Considering both the results of the Roundup cases that have already been tried and the mounting evidence of Monsanto’s dishonest business practices, it stands to reason that affected individuals may have a high chance of obtaining substantial compensation for their injuries related to the pesticide’s use. Importantly, the resolution of settlement talks that are currently conducted is unlikely to affect compensation prospects of victims who haven’t filed a claim yet or will not have filed a claim before a settlement is reached. Therefore, any individual who suspects they have developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to Roundup use should contact a lawyer immediately to explore their legal options for obtaining compensation.

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