The federal judge overseeing the Roundup weedkiller multidistrict litigation expressed reservations about a $45 million nationwide class settlement that would resolve false advertising claims over Monsanto's Roundup weed-killing products.
Judge Vincent Chhabria hinted on April 14 that the $45 million settlement was too low and that consumers may not be aware that despite the settlement, they can still file a personal injury claim, Law360.com reported.
The settlement would provide payments to consumers who purchased certain Roundup products and resolve a lawsuit claiming that Monsanto failed to warn users that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicides, could cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, other cancers, and health problems. Monsanto, which is owned by Bayer AG, denies that it failed to warn consumers.
Judge Chhabria stated in a virtual hearing, "If we're going to approve a settlement like this we better make darn sure that the settlement process is not going to confuse anybody into believing that they've given up their rights to sue Monsanto if they develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”
Attorneys for Monsanto claimed that the notices to class members make it clear that plaintiffs can still pursue personal injury claims. But Judge Chhabria countered, “The notice is not even close. It has to be made much more clear.”
If approved, the settlement would establish a fund containing between $23 million and $45 million to reimburse consumers for their purchases of glyphosate-based weed killers sold by Monsanto. But the class would only receive approximately 20% of the average price they paid for the Roundup products.
Judge Chhabria also expressed concern that if more Roundup personal injury claim trials receive heavy publicity, the $45 million settlement for false advertising would seem insufficient.
Chhabria continued to criticize the settlement, saying, "From the standpoint of deterrence for Monsanto, or remedying the alleged wrongdoing … there's no real value to the settlement from that standpoint. It's peanuts, it's like Monsanto taking a penny out of its pocket to get rid of what is essentially a nuisance lawsuit."
In March, consumers of Roundup products who live in Missouri told a California federal court that it should reject the $45 million settlement, arguing that the deal would let Monsanto off the hook for economic injury claims in exchange for paltry reimbursements.
Bayer has already sought to overturn several verdicts favoring plaintiffs. Additionally, thousands of Roundup cancer personal injury claims remain unresolved.