Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed over the safety of this popular weed-killing product. If you're thinking about taking legal action over health problems that could be caused by your use of Roundup, it's important to understand a few key issues, including the importance of getting a clear diagnosis and complying with the statute of limitations—plus how a proposed $10 billion settlement might affect your claim.
Bayer (which acquired Roundup maker Monsanto a few years back) claims there is no connection between glyphosate and cancer, and even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization can't agree. In 2015, the WHO classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic," but two years later the EPA said the chemical wasn't likely cancer-causing. Still, the link has been strong enough to prompt thousands of lawsuits by groundskeepers, gardeners, and other consumers—and at least three big jury verdicts against Monsanto/Bayer. Roundup remains on store shelves nationwide, and Bayer is willing to pay over $10 billion to make its Roundup-related legal problems go away (more on this later).
A lawsuit seeking compensation for health problems caused by use of Roundup will likely be based on the concept of "product liability," a fault theory that can be used to hold manufacturers like Bayer/Monsanto responsible for illness and injury caused by dangerous or defective products. (Cases like these are sometimes classified as "toxic tort" lawsuits.)
A big initial consideration for any Roundup lawsuit is the statute of limitations, which is a state law that sets a time limit on your right to take your case to court and ask for compensation for your medical bills and other losses. In most states, the statute-of-limitations deadline that will apply to a Roundup lawsuit is the same as the one that applies to most personal injury lawsuits. But some states have a separate statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits.
The statute of limitations "clock" might not necessarily start running on the date of the plaintiff's last use of Roundup. Under the "discovery rule" in most states, the clock might start only when the plaintiff discovers (or should reasonably have discovered) that they were harmed by Roundup. That date might coincide with a diagnosis of a health problem caused by exposure to glyphosate, or the plaintiff's first experience of symptoms of such a health problem.
It's obviously a good idea to see a doctor at the first sign of any glyphosate-related health problems—to protect not only your legal rights, but also your health. The specifics of your health problems are critical to shaping the value of your Roundup case, and it all starts with an accurate diagnosis.
Diagnosis goes straight to the nature and extent of your losses ("damages" in legalese). The plaintiff in a Roundup case almost always experiences both "economic" damages (including the cost of past and future medical treatment, lost income, and other quantifiable losses) and "non-economic" damages such as "pain and suffering" and similar, more subjective impacts related to the Roundup-related health problems.
The $10B settlement agreement proposed by Bayer and a number of Roundup plaintiffs' representatives in summer 2020 applies to around 95,000 cases. Between $8.8 billion and $9.6 billion goes to cover those existing cases, with around $1.25 billion set aside to cover future claimants who have yet to bring a Roundup lawsuit (including a pending class action) and the creation of an independent Class Science Panel. The Panel is charged with deciding whether glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and if there is indeed a link, what level of exposure to glyphosate is necessary to cause this illness. The panel's findings are slated to bind future Roundup class action litigants, but the judge in the case has expressed serious concerns about the settlement agreement, and has yet to approve the deal.
If you're thinking about taking legal action over health problems potentially caused by your use of a glyphosate product like Roundup, it's important to understand how this proposed settlement might affect your options. You might not be bound by any class action that's created, but you may need to "opt out" in order to preserve your right to bring your own individual lawsuit. Your best first step is discussing your situation with an attorney. Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.