SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Bayer has settled one of several class action battles over claims that its Roundup products lack cancer warning labels, and will pay millions in attorneys’ fees to end a long dispute involving the company and product maker Monsanto.
The settlement approved in federal court Friday shows Bayer will pay the eight lead plaintiffs $5,000 each, plus reimbursement of $210,888 in expenses. More than 200,000 class members can submit claims to cash in on the settlement fund.
Bayer will also pay $5.75 million in attorneys' fees, a sharp reduction by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria from the $11.25 million which plaintiffs requested last year.
A year ago, Chhabria warned lawyers looking to settle labeling claims that their class notice should “scream from the mountaintops” that consumers looking to participate won’t have to give up their right to sue if they later develop cancer.
Bayer had agreed to pay between $23 million and $45 million to resolve claims that purchasers, led by plaintiff Scott Gilmore, overpaid for Roundup because it lacked a cancer warning label.
Under the nationwide settlement, Bayer would compensate class members for up to 20% of the average retail price of up to 11 Roundup products, paying anywhere between $0.50 and $33.00 per bottle depending on the size of the product, without receipts. Proof of purchase would allow consumers to claim unlimited bottles.
But Chhabria said at the time he didn't believe the settlement conferred much of a benefit to consumers. He said that if 0.1% of class members were confused by the class notice, the settlement “would have to be rejected for that reason alone.”
Chhabria’s new order released Friday reflects a win for the class members, who submitted between 226,268 and 230,097 net valid claims worth between $12 million and $14 million.
He said he now finds the settlement fair and reasonable, as “claimants will receive more than 20% of the average retail price of products they purchased, which is more than two-thirds of plaintiffs’ expert’s estimate of best-case damages were this case to proceed to trial.”
Dismissing the case with prejudice, the judge ordered that within 21 days after all funds have been paid, both parties shall file a post-distribution accounting and post it on the settlement website. That accounting must provide information on the total settlement fund; the number of claims; the number and percentage of objections; the average, median, maximum, and minimum recovery per claimant; the methods of notice and methods of payment to class members; the number and value of any uncashed checks to class members and any amounts distributed to a cy pres recipient.
The agreement is a drop in the bucket for the billions of dollars that Bayer has already paid to settle cancer claims stemming from Roundup use.
In June 2020, Bayer agreed to pay $10.9 billion to settle nearly 100,000 lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, caused them to develop cancer. But Chhabria refused to approve another $2 billion deal to resolve future claims from Roundup users who have not developed cancer but may be diagnosed in the future.
Bayer has also vowed to remove glyphosate-based products from retail store shelves by 2023 to prevent future litigation, though the company has consistently said that it stands behind Roundup’s safety.
In 2019, Chhabria oversaw the first federal trial on claims Monsanto sold Roundup without a warning label, after which a jury awarded a Sonoma man $75 million in punitive damages after finding that years of Roundup use likely caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The Ninth Circuit upheld the jury’s verdict in 2021, though it agreed with Chhabria that the punitive damages should be reduced to $20 million.
The U.S. Supreme Court requested input from the solicitor general in the case on the question of whether Monsanto can be held liable under California law for failing to put a cancer warning label on Roundup when it was prohibited from doing so by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which says a company cannot put a warning on a product without the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval.
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