Herbicide manufacturer Monsanto and its German parent company, Bayer, may face an unprecedented number of separate, new lawsuits against them next year unless there is a significant resolution of current claims.
There have already been three successful claims against Monsanto for the serious health effects caused by their product, Roundup. Roundup has been on the market for many years now and has proved to be a very successful herbicide. It has also been alleged that prolonged exposure to the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has caused a cancer known as a lymphoma.
With 43,000 separate lawsuits against Monsanto and Bayer, the companies are under serious pressure to agree to a settlement that satisfies all plaintiffs. At present, there is no sign that Bayer and Monsanto are prepared to admit outright that their product could have contributed to any of the cancer cases cited. In fact, they continue to state that glyphosate is perfectly safe as long as all safety instructions and advice are adhered to.
What should worry the herbicide manufacturer is that each successive lawsuit that is found in favor of the plaintiffs is getting larger and larger, even if the amount awarded by a lower court is subsequently knocked back to a fraction of what was originally awarded.
The most recent award was back in May this year. Alberta and Alva Pilliod alleged that the use of the weed killer over a prolonged period around their home had caused each of them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A California state court in Oakland found in favor of the two plaintiffs and ordered Bayer and Monsanto to pay the Pilliods 2 billion dollars in compensation. This huge amount was subsequently knocked down to 87 million dollars.
Damaging report released by WHO led to the lawsuits against Roundup’s manufacturers
The Pilliod award followed two other successful lawsuits. The main evidence cited by lawyers acting on behalf of sick plaintiffs was convincing enough to point the finger at a link to Roundup. This was a 2015 report by the World Health Organization (WHO). The damaging report concluded that “glyphosate was probably carcinogenic to humans.” The number of lawsuits against Monsanto and its parent literally exploded after release of the report.
Both Bayer and Monsanto dispute the evidence released by the WHO, but they are now racing against time to prevent an avalanche of further lawsuits reaching courts right across the U.S. Mediation is ongoing between many of the plaintiffs and Bayer and there are some signs that the parent company might come to an agreement if the amount of compensation to be paid can be settled without any further lawsuits going to trial. The mediation process is reported to be going ahead very slowly and it’s possible that there will be no satisfactory resolution before the end of this year.
Trials already scheduled for first 3 months of 2020
Already, there are several key lawsuits that have been lined up to be heard in the first three months of 2020. These have all been filed in the same state as Monsanto is based, Missouri. In January, there are two jury trials scheduled. One lawsuit was filed by the parents of a 12 year old boy who developed B-cell lymphoma, allegedly because he had been playing in the yard where his father had been using Roundup regularly to control weeds.
In February, two trials are likely, as the result of two separate lawsuits brought by a husband and wife who have both developed non-Hodgkin lymphomas allegedly as the result of prolonged preparation and use of the weed killer around their home.
Although there is still a faint possibility of a resolution of the legal impasse over compensation before the cascade of lawsuits are heard next year, the problem for Bayer and Monsanto is that there are more and more lawsuits being filed all the time.
Increasing call for the weed killer’s active ingredient to be banned
It doesn’t help the manufacturers’ case that there have been more and more calls for glyphosate to be banned around the world, although there is fierce resistance from farmers and agriculturalists. They claim that this would have a huge effect on the amount of food that could be grown and that there is no easy safe alternative currently available. Bans in several U.S. states and individual countries in the European Union (E.U.) are either current or scheduled to come into effect fairly soon. The E.U. may make a decision to ban the chemical right across the 28 member union next year. These decisions to ban glyphosate are unlikely to help Bayer or Monsanto and may be enough of an extra inducement to get them to agree to a resolution of litigations that are current, quicker than they might have liked. It might even lead to a halt to the manufacture of their enormously profitable weed killer altogether.