An agreement for Bayer AG to pay more than $10 billion to settle thousands of claims that the popular weedkiller Roundup causes cancer is at risk of falling apart.
Judge Vince Chhabria of U.S. District Court in San Francisco warned in a filing, saying he is “skeptical of the propriety and fairness of the proposed settlement, and is tentatively inclined to deny the motion.”
He raised concerns about the creation of a scientific panel to determine whether the key ingredient, plyphosate, causes cancer and whether the agreement unfairly limits potential plaintiffs from suing. The settlement includes $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to cover approximately 95,000 cases. In addition, $1.25 billion was set aside to finance the scientific panel and assist impoverished Roundup users with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Bayer has maintained that the product is safe, and the settlement included no admission of liability or wrongdoing. Government regulators around the world, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have said glyphosate does not cause cancer. However, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an extension of the World Health Organization, announced that glyphosate could “probably” cause cancer.
Judge Chhabria identified the three previous multimillion-dollar verdicts and asked, “Why would a potential class member want to replace a jury trial and the right to seek punitive damages with the process contemplated by the settlement agreement?”
Bayer is appealing all those judgements.