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On June 26, Bayer AG announced new steps it is taking to resolve the thousands of lawsuits linked to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup. Today there are over 14,000 pending lawsuits against Bayer-owned Monsanto alleging Roundup caused heavily exposed users cancer. More specifically, the lawsuits cite the development of a group of blood cancers called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

The announced plans include the hiring of an external lawyer to advise Bayer’s supervisory board on the growing number of lawsuits. Bayer will also set up a committee specifically designed to assist in resolving pending Roundup lawsuits. This announcement was likely made in part to win over shareholders, who have widely criticized Bayer’s handling of the lawsuits until now. Since March, Bayer stocks have lost more than 20 percent of their value, largely prompted by court cases that ruled against them.

In all of the three Roundup cases that have gone to court to date, juries have ruled against Bayer and awarded plaintiffs enormous sums:

  1. Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Co.: In August 2018, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who was diagnosed with NHL after regularly using Roundup at work. The winnings were later slashed to $78 million.
  2. Edwin Hardeman v. Monsanto Co.: In March 2019, a federal jury ordered Monsanto to pay $80 million in damages to Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with NHL after using Roundup for 26 years. On July 2, District Judge Vince Chhabria said he will most likely slash the $80 million winnings, but will not dismiss them completely.
  3. Pilliod v. Monsanto Co.: In May 2019, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay over $2 billion to married couple Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who were both diagnosed with NHL after using Roundup on their properties for decades.

A fourth trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 19 in a St. Louis County Circuit Court. The Missouri-based trial will be the first to take place outside of California, and will be just a few miles from Monsanto’s longtime St. Louis headquarters.

This announcement was greeted overwhelmingly positively by shareholders, who agree that this is a good course of action that could lead to an earlier-than-expected settlement. In fact, Bayer’s shares rose 8.7 percent in a single day after the announcement was made, which is the biggest daily gain Bayer has seen in 10 years.

Even more importantly than shareholder approval, though, is the implication of an early settlement on plaintiffs’ lives. A settlement by Bayer brings the possibility that plaintiffs with pending cases have a quicker and more certain resolution – which could be a life-changing difference to those struggling with NHL and their families.

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