Bayer’s plan for future Roundup claims hits setback

German chemical giant Bayer is delaying a plan to resolve future litigation claiming that its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer just two weeks after it agreed a US$10.9bn deal to settle most of the 125,000 lawsuits it faces in the USA, Agence France-Presse reported on 9 July.

While the US$10.9bn deal agreed on 24 June addressed 95,000 lawsuits, US$1.25bn had been set aside to settle about 30,000 outstanding claims.

Bayer said on 8 July that lawyers representing those preparing a class action had withdrawn a request for court approval of the US$1.25bn scheme.

The move would allow more time to address questions raised by US district judge Vince Chhabria who was presiding over the federal Roundup litigation, Bayer said.

“Bayer remains strongly committed to a resolution that simultaneously addresses both the current litigation on reasonable terms and a viable solution to manage and resolve potential future litigation", it added.

The company declined to comment on the impact of the withdrawal on the timetable for the rest of the settlement.

Chhabria had described the company’s plan to create a class-action case for future litigants as problematic in a court filing on Monday 6 July and, setting a 24 July hearing date, said he was ‘tentatively inclined’ to reject it.

Bayer inherited the legal disputes following its 2018 takeover of global agrochemical firm Monsanto and the deal followed a year of negotiations.

The company’s plan for future claims would involve the setting up of a scientific panel to determine if Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate caused cancer, while still potentially allowing users of the herbicide to press claims. However, many lawyers not participating in the settlement said the plan was designed to protect Bayer.

"It's questionable whether it would be constitutional (or otherwise lawful) to delegate the function of deciding the general causation question (that is, whether and at what dose Roundup is capable of causing cancer) from judges and juries to a panel of scientists," Chhabria was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.

At a news conference in June, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Bayer’s global head of litigation William Dodero as saying that he couldn’t predict how many new Roundup cases would emerge and be included in the future class.

Bayer denies claims that Roundup or its active ingredient causes cancer, saying decades of independent studies have shown the product is safe for human use and has appealed three US jury verdicts against it. The product is used by farmers in combination with the company’s genetically modified seeds.