A Roundup cancer trial in St. Louis, Missouri, will not open on Wednesday as expected, a court spokesman said Monday, fueling fresh speculation that a global settlement of tens of thousands of lawsuits brought by cancer victims against the former Monsanto Co. may be near.
St. Louis City Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Hogan issued the notification Monday afternoon, reversing guidance provided to jurors and media last week that they should plan for opening statements in the case to begin Wednesday. Broadcasters waiting to air the proceedings of the highly anticipated trial were told to pack up their equipment.
The St. Louis case, titled Wade v. Monsanto, involves four plaintiffs, including one woman whose husband died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Opening statements were initially expected Jan. 24, but were postponed to allow for lawyers for Monsanto’s German owner Bayer AG and lawyers for the plaintiffs to discuss settlement terms. The court then said the trial would open on Feb. 5. Now, it is off indefinitely.
The plaintiffs in the Wade case allege that they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma because of exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides, including the popular Roundup brand. More than 50,000 people are making similar allegations against the company, and are additionally claiming that Monsanto knew about the risks but failed to warn its customers.
Several trials have been pulled off the docket over the last several weeks as Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, has drawn closer to a global settlement of the litigation. Bayer is looking to pay out roughly $10 billion in total to settle most, if not all, of the claims, according to sources close to the negotiations.
Last week, a California Roundup trial titled Caballero v. Monsanto was officially postponed after more than a week of jury selection activities and the seating of 16 jurors. Sources close to the litigation said settlement terms have now been agreed to in Caballero.
Sources also said the plaintiffs in a Roundup trial scheduled to start February 24th in federal court in San Francisco – Stevick v. Monsanto – are being told their case is unlikely to go forward.
Bayer investors are eager for the company to put an end to the litigation and head off more trials and the publicity that each brings. Bayer’s lawyers have reportedly negotiated settlement payout for the clients of several large plaintiffs’ firms, but had been unable to reach agreement with two – The Miller Firm of Virginia and Weitz & Luxenberg of New York.
The Miller firm represents the plaintiffs in the Caballero, Wade and Stevick cases. The fact that those cases are now also being postponed or called off indicates Bayer and the Miller firm likely have come to an agreement, or are near one, observers said.
The first three trials went badly for Monsanto and Bayer as outraged juries awarded over $2.3 billion in damages to four plaintiffs. Trial judges lowered the jury awards to a total of roughly $190 million, and all are under appeal.
Reuters reported that Bayer is considering a settlement provision that would bar plaintiffs’ lawyers involved in the litigation from advertising for new clients.
Mediator Ken Feinberg declined to comment. Feinberg was appointed last May by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria to facilitate the settlement process. Last month, Feinberg said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a “national all-in” settlement of the U.S. lawsuits was near.