ST. LOUIS – Bayer reached another settlement on Thursday to settle a collection of claims that its weed killer Roundup caused cancer – and avoided a trial that was due to start next week in St. Louis.
The deal shatters what is nearly the first attempt of its kind to reach the hometown of Monsanto, the agribusiness and biotech giant headquartered in the St. Louis area until its 2018 acquisition by Bayer, which was still a big local maintains a presence.
Monsanto developed Roundup in 1970 and retained the patent on the chemical until it expired in 2000. The legal obligations attached to the product — and claims about its cancer risks — have now been taken over by Bayer and have cost the German company billions in regulatory payouts and billions more in diminished stock value. In 2020, for example, the company settled the bulk of US Roundup lawsuits for nearly $10 billion.
The specific terms of Thursday’s settlement are confidential, Bayer said.
The new agreement addresses a lawsuit first filed in 2017 that involved dozens of U.S. plaintiffs — including St. Louis County resident and lead plaintiff Earl Neal, who said he was exposed to Roundup when he worked for the St. Louis City Parks Department and St. Louis City Forestry Department in the 1990s.
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Neal and other plaintiffs in the case alleged that their use of Roundup — whether at home, at work, and on farms — caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and sought damages arising from “its unreasonably dangerous and defective nature.” of the product and “wrong” would constitute conduct” by Monsanto, per their original legal complaint.
“We are pleased that the Neal case has been resolved on reasonable terms as part of our continued work to resolve the Roundup litigation,” Bayer said in a statement.
As of Thursday, the lawsuit had remained on track for a trial in St. Louis, even as Bayer reached settlements in other Roundup cases across the country.
The new agreement comes practically on the eve of the trial, which was due to start on Monday. It mirrors developments in other cases, which have also dodged trials when they were about to face a jury. For example, in January 2020, another case that was about to reach a courtroom in St. Louis was pushed back to the same day opening statements were scheduled to take place so settlement talks could continue.
In an earnings call last month, Bayer said 107,000 of approximately 138,000 Roundup personal injury lawsuits — about 75% — have been resolved or deemed ineligible.
An attorney for the plaintiffs in the case did not respond to a request for comment.