German pharmaceutical company Bayer will pay over $10 billion to settle lawsuits over its herbicide Roundup that allegedly causes cancer.
A Huge Payout
In 2018, Bayer bought the agrochemical company Monsanto. Later that year, a Californian school groundskeeper sued the company claiming Roundup caused him to develop lymphoma. What followed was a storm of similar lawsuits. The company now faces a whopping 100,000 legal cases.
But this Wednesday, Bayer announced it would spend at least $8.8 billion to settle existing lawsuits. And that sum could ballon to $9.6 billion and Bayer has set aside $1.25 billion in case further disputes arise.
Though Bayer has agreed to pay the damages, the company has not admitted to any wrongdoing.
Even before the most recent string of lawsuits, Monsanto had a reputation for hiding the hazards of its products.
The U.S. banned polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in 1979, but the company was aware of the threat for at least 40 years before then. In 1937, an internal memo read that prolonged exposure to PCBs could cause “systemic toxic effects.” In other words, decades before Monsanto pulled the product, it knew the chemicals in its herbicide could cause cancer. Now, the company faces accusations that it is repeating history.
A “Roundup” of Lawsuits
After groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson fell ill, he sued the Bayer subsidiary. The court initially awarded him $920 million in damages. But upon appeal, the court lowered the damages to $78 million stating the jury had overreached.
A second case in California led to a settlement of $87 million for a couple who alleged Roundup caused their cancers.
Now, facing an avalanche of cases, the company has decided to just settle them all to save time.
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann wrote the following in a statement:
“The decision to resolve the Roundup litigation enables us to focus fully on the critical supply of health care and food… It will also return the conversation about the safety and utility of glyphosate-based herbicides to the scientific and regulatory arena and to the full body of science.”
But Werner was careful not to hint at any wrongdoing by his company. “Unfortunately,” he protested, “we have to pay an awful lot of money for a product which is perfectly regulated.”
Ken Feinberg, who has been a mediator for the settlement, seemed more enthusiastic about the deal. The high-profile mediator is famous for negotiating the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the BP Deepwater Horizon incident. Feinberg says this outcome is “constructive and reasonable.” Furthermore, he claims, “Bayer wisely decided to settle the litigation rather than roll the dice in American court.”