Can I Join a Roundup Class Action Lawsuit?

A recent $10B settlement could create a Roundup class action, but for now joining the existing multi-district litigation (MDL) might be your best option.

By , J.D. University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated 7/29/2022

Roundup is a weed-killing product that relies on the herbicide glyphosate, a chemical compound that may cause serious illness, including a form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Roundup remains on store shelves nationwide, and corporate giant Bayer (which acquired Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in 2018) is working toward resolving thousands of lawsuits over health problems linked to the popular weed killer. These settlement talks include creation of a class action to resolve future Roundup injury claims, but for now "joining" an existing Roundup group action—at least one for claims for illness caused by Roundup—probably means adding your lawsuit to the Roundup multi-district litigation.

Get the basics on filing a lawsuit over cancer caused by use of Roundup.

Note that there's been at least one Roundup-related class action settlement. In July 2022, Bayer/Monsanto agreed to pay $45 million to settle a class action alleging that the company didn't do enough to warn consumers about the risk that Roundup can cause cancer. But that class action was related to the potential dangers of Roundup use. It contained no allegations of actual Roundup-related illness by class members. This brings us to a key distinction between a class action and multi-district litigation.

Class Actions Versus Multi-District Litigation

A class action is one large lawsuit in which one or a few designated class representatives bring suit on behalf of many other similarly-harmed individuals (the "class"). This representative (usually through a team of lawyers) handles the litigation on behalf of the class, and what happens in the case is legally binding on all class members who did not "opt out" beforehand. Learn more about how class actions work.

But class actions aren't usually an effective or fair way to handle cases in which a large number of people have been harmed in significant (and potentially different) ways, even if that harm was caused by use of the same product. So while the class action we mentioned above relates to Bayer/Monsanto's failure to issue proper warnings over Roundup-related health risks, most of the thousands of cases alleging actual health problems caused by Roundup are currently making their way through state courts, or in the federal multi-district litigation (MDL) action called In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2741.

MDL consolidates multiple cases into a single federal district, before a single judge, who will shepherd the MDL through the pre-trial process, including rulings about evidence and discovery that will apply to every individual case. The parties and the judge will choose a few representative cases for "bellwether trials," which will give all parties an idea of what to expect if their own cases go to trial, and are typically meant to spur settlement talks. But if no settlement occurs, each case goes back to its respective home court, and the litigation proceeds on an individual basis. Learn more about how multi-district litigation works.

The Proposed Roundup Settlement May Create a Class Action

The majority of the $10 billion settlement proposal between Bayer and current plaintiffs goes to resolution of existing claims, but $1.25 billion is earmarked for a new class action that would help Bayer resolve many of the future Roundup cases brought against it. The settlement agreement (which has yet to be approved by the judge in the MDL) proposes the creation of a Class Science Panel which would decide (within four years) whether Roundup causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and if so, how much exposure to glyphosate is necessary to cause the illness. The Panel's conclusion would be binding on both Bayer and all future members of the class action. But creation of the Panel and its impact on the rights of future claimants also seems to be a big reason why the MDL judge won't sign off on the settlement, so the future of the Roundup class action remains unclear.

If you're thinking about filing a lawsuit over health problems caused by your use of Roundup, you might not necessarily be bound by any class action that's created when (or if) the big settlement is finalized, but you may need to "opt out" in order to preserve your right to bring your own case. Your best first step is discussing your situation with an attorney. Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.

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