A California federal judge expressed concerns about a nationwide class settlement clearing Monsanto of false advertising claims related to the dangers of its Roundup weedkilling products, saying a $45 million ceiling could be low and consumers aren’t clearly notified that they can still file personal injury claims.
The deal provides payments to consumers who purchased certain Roundup products and settles a lawsuit claiming that Monsanto falsely advertised and promoted the products by failing to disclose that the active ingredient, glyphosate, could cause cancer or other health problems. The agrochemical giant, owned by Bayer AG, denies that it failed to disclose any dangers.
Judge Chhabria said he wanted to make sure that the way the settlement was promoted did not confuse consumers and make them think they could no longer sue the company.
“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,” Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said.
The proposed settlement establishes a fund of $23 million to $45 million that will reimburse buyers for about 20% of the average price they paid for Roundup products. It would resolve on the action before the court brought by Scott Gilmore and other plaintiffs, as well as other cases brought in federal and state courts across the country against Monsanto and retailers that sold the company’s products.
The parties told the court in their motion for preliminary approval that there were millions of purchasers of the products during the class period, which varies by state depending on the applicable statute of limitations for false-advertising or breach-of-warranty claims.
The judge also expressed concern that the $45 million ceiling that Monsanto agreed to pay might be too low, particularly if publicity surrounding the Roundup cases brings in more claims than expected.
The proposed settlement was filed in January. In March, Missouri consumers who bought Roundup tore into the deal, telling the court it should reject the deal due to its “panoply of red flags,” including indicators of collusion.
A lawyer for the objectors, Patrick Stueve of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, said his clients were concerned about how the settlement was reached and the significant discount it seemed to reflect off Monsanto’s potential exposure.