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April 16, 2019

Roundup Settlement Discussions Ordered in MDL

Following the first two trials in the ongoing Roundup litigation ending in decisive victories for plaintiffs with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from exposure to the popular weed killer, the District Judge overseeing the federal litigation has cancelled a bellwether trial scheduled for next month and ordered the parties to enter into Roundup settlement discussions as part of the mediation process.

Currently, Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer, are facing more than 11,000 Roundup lawsuits from consumers, farmers and landscapers who developed cancer from exposure to the glyphosate-based herbicide.

All the pending lawsuits allege that Monsanto knew about Roundup’s cancer risks for decades but concealed them to protect the weed killer’s market share. Due to similarities in the allegations, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized all pending federal lawsuits in a multidistrict litigation (MDL). The federal court presiding over the litigation scheduled a series of early trials to help parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses in their cases.

In March, the first federal bellwether trial ended in a $80 million award for the plaintiff after the jury ruled that Roundup was a significant factor in the plaintiff developing cancer.

This verdict came on the heels of the first California state court trial in late 2018. The jury awarded $289 million to a former school groundskeeper who was dying from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after regular exposure to Roundup. While the court eventually reduced the verdict to $78 million, the two awards clearly demonstrate the grave liability Bayer could face at trial if it fails to negotiate a Roundup settlement or some other resolution to the litigation.

Roundup Settlement Talks and Case Remand

The court prepared another Roundup bellwether case for trial next month. However, District Judge Vince Chhabria has decided to vacate the trial so that parties and the Court can direct attention on the next phase in the litigation. Judge Chhabria issued a pretrial order to this effect April 11.

“The Court has determined that, at this stage in the proceedings, the resources of the parties and the Court are better spent on organizing the remaining cases in the MDL,” Judge Chhabria wrote. “This includes determining which cases must be dismissed, determining which cases must be remanded to state court, and preparing the remaining cases for transfer back to their home districts for federal court trials.”

Judge Chhabria also ordered Roundup settlement discussions as part of a confidential mediation. If these talks are successful, they could circumvent the need for thousands of cases to go to individual trials.

The Court also indicated that it will address motions to dismiss and remand cases, as well as other issues during a May 22 hearing. The Court will also be holding a case management conference at this time to determine the MDL’s next steps and how the court will release cases back to District Courts for individual trial dates across the country.

Meanwhile, the second Roundup state trial is currently underway in California. A husband and wife both developed fatal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following exposure to Roundup. Due to their rapidly failing health, the court granted them an expedited trial date. The trial is expected to wrap up early next month.

Roundup trials are expected to start this summer and fall in Missouri, as well. The majority of Roundup lawsuits are currently pending in Missouri state court due to Monsanto’s U.S. headquarters being located there.

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