Roundup is an effective, broad-spectrum herbicide used more than any other herbicide in the world. It was introduced by Monsanto in 1974; in 2018, Monsanto was purchased by Bayer. The first Roundup lawsuit was filed that same year, and Bayer has been facing mounting foes in courtrooms across the country ever since.
The fifth Roundup case to go to trial, which lasted four months, was closed recently in California’s San Bernardino County. The lawsuit was filed by Donnetta Stephens, who developed cancer after using Roundup and alleged that its active ingredient, glyphosate, was at fault. The jury ruled in favor of Bayer. They also rejected the notion that Bayer knew the product was dangerous and was negligent in formulating the herbicide.
The plaintiff claims her exposure to Roundup from 1985 and 2017 contributed to her diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Stephens, whose multiple cycles of chemotherapy have resulted in significant memory loss, sued Bayer for failing to warn her about the dangers of Roundup. At several points during the trial, Stephens was confused by the questioning.
This victory was the second favorable outcome for Bayer this year. In October, Bayer won its first jury verdict in a lawsuit filed by Destiny Clark after son Ezra developed Burkitt’s lymphoma. Clark alleges that her son was exposed to Roundup as she sprayed weeds around the family residence. The plaintiff sued then-owner Monsanto for failing to warn about cancer risks when using Roundup.
There have been three victories for plaintiffs in jury trials against Bayer and Roundup, all in California. In May 2019, a jury awarded a couple who claimed their Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by exposure to Roundup $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages. Earlier that year, a man who blamed his cancer on extensive use of Roundup received $80 million in damages. In August 2018, a jury awarded a groundskeeper damages of a staggering $289 million, but that verdict was later reduced to $78 million after Bayer appealed the decision.
There have been more than 124,000 lawsuits filed against Roundup; Bayer has settled approximately 96,000 of them. Thousands of plaintiffs have alleged that glyphosate causes Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bayer has agreed to pay as much as $9.6 billion to settle many of these claims.
In May 2021, Bayer proposed a class action settlement of $2 billion to settle future cancer-related claims against Roundup, which would have provided compensation to plaintiffs but with several limitations. The proposal was rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria, who told Reuters that it was “clearly unreasonable.” The settlement would have paused all Non-Hodgkin’s litigation for four years, after which anyone who filed suit against Bayer would be unable to seek punitive damages. In return, plaintiffs would have been eligible for free medical exams and compensation up to $200,000.
In response to the rejection, Bayer said the class action settlement had been “designed to help the company achieve a level of risk mitigation that is comparable to the previously proposed national class solution.” Throughout the jury trials, Bayer and Monsanto have maintained that decades of scientific research and study prove that glyphosate and Roundup are safe for human use.
In 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” However, it also acknowledged that there is limited firm evidence of the link between glyphosate and Non-Hodgkin’s.
Unless Bayer can prove that Roundup does not cause Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which they will attempt to do with an independent panel of experts in the coming months, the outcome of the nearly 30,000 currently outstanding lawsuits is anyone’s guess.