Bayer has taken its cue from a judge and decided to rework the portion of its proposed Roundup settlement that focuses on future lawsuits.
On Wednesday, Bayer said lawyers representing a class of plaintiffs who claim the Roundup weedkiller caused their cancer had withdrawn a request for court approval of that $1.25 billion section of the settlement deal.
“The withdrawal will enable the parties to more comprehensively address the questions” raised by Judge Vince Chhabria, the company said.
The decision came after Chhabria said he was “tentatively inclined” to reject Bayer's plan for handling future claims. Bayer wanted to lump all potential claims into a new class bound by the $1.25 billion settlement. Under the proposal, Bayer would set up an independent panel of scientists to determine whether Roundup can cause cancer. If the panel didn't find a causal relationship, no new cancer claims could be brought against the product.
However, Chhabria said he was skeptical about leaving that decision in the hands of scientists when it should be judges’ and juries’ responsibility. He also questioned whether it’s reasonable to bind all future plaintiffs to one finding when science keeps making new discoveries.
The withdrawal marks a setback in Bayer’s effort to solve once and for all the Roundup litigation headache it inherited from the Monsanto acquisition. It likely won’t affect the other part of the deal, worth up to $9.6 billion, that focuses on current plaintiffs.
“Bayer remains strongly committed to a resolution that simultaneously addresses both the current litigation on reasonable terms and a viable solution to manage and resolve potential future litigation,” the company said in a statement.
Now, it’s working with the plaintiffs on a plan B, and it might not take too long. “Although the Court is not aware of any Plan B, it would be surprising if none existed given the stakes involved and the novelty of Plan A,” Chhabria noted earlier.