Roundup Cancer Lawsuits

The popular weed killer Roundup has been linked to cancer. Here's what potential plaintiffs need to know.

By , J.D. University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated 12/13/2023

If you're thinking about filing a lawsuit over your use of Roundup, understanding your options starts with getting a sense of the legal and health issues surrounding "glyphosate" (the active ingredient in Roundup) and its potential links to illnesses like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

What Is Roundup?

Roundup, one of the most popular weed killing products in the U.S. (and the world), relies on the active ingredient glyphosate, a chemical compound discovered in the early 1970s. Glyphosate is fairly unique among "herbicides" (vegetation-killing chemicals) in that it doesn't target weeds or any other specific kind of plant. Instead, glyphosate is a "non-selective" herbicide, meaning it kills all plants or crops it comes into contact with.

A Brief History of Roundup

Monsanto started manufacturing Roundup in the mid-1970s, but it wasn't until 1996 that product sales really took off. That's when the company started marketing seeds that were genetically modified to resist glyphosate. This meant Roundup could be used on and around crops, ornamental plants, and flowers, which could continue to thrive while weeds and other invasive kinds of vegetation were eliminated.

In 2018, German pharmaceutical giant Bayer bought Roundup creator and manufacturer Monsanto, and ended up inheriting all of Monsanto's emerging Roundup-related legal problems. The safety of pesticides and herbicides has been under scrutiny for decades, but in 2015 the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced a new classification of glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic" (meaning it likely causes cancer).

Use of Roundup and similar weed killing products is so pervasive that in 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced the results of a study finding measurable levels of glyphosate in 80 percent of urine samples tested in the U.S.

Roundup Cancer Lawsuits

By the time Bayer bought Monsanto in 2018, thousands of lawsuits linking Roundup to the development of a form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma had been filed in courts nationwide. (The business entity known as "Monsanto" no longer exists, though the name appears to live on in court filings related to Roundup litigation.)

That same year, in the first of these cases to go to trial, a California jury found in favor of Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old groundskeeper who used Roundup on the job. Bayer/Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages. That award has twice been reduced on appeal (to $20.5 million), but Bayer/Monsanto's liability has been upheld both times. (Learn more about different kinds of damages in a personal injury case.)

Since then, tens of thousands of Roundup lawsuits have been filed. Plaintiffs have scored some big victories against Bayer with some high-profile verdicts, but the company has also won several verdicts of its own, with juries finding that the company wasn't responsible for the plaintiffs' claimed illnesses. A number of massive settlement deals have also been announced. More on these later.

Bayer is said to be facing more than 50,000 lawsuits alleging that Roundup caused illness, as of the end of 2023.

Is Roundup Still Being Sold?

Roundup has not been subject to any widespread product recall, and for the time being it remains on the shelves of most "big box" home improvement centers and neighborhood hardware stores—favored by farmers, groundskeepers, and backyard gardeners alike. But changes are on the way (more on this below).

There's been little in the way of changes to Roundup labeling, and no mention of cancer risk. California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment listed glyphosate as cancer-causing in 2017, but in July 2020 a federal court judge in California prevented state officials from requiring that Roundup contain a prominent "Prop 65" safety warning. (Prop 65 warnings come from a 1986 state ballot initiative requiring California businesses to provide warnings to consumers about products that could bring significant exposure to chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects).

While there's no mention of cancer risks, various iterations of Roundup warning labels have stated:

  • anyone using the product must wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes, and socks
  • avoid breathing vapor or spray mist
  • wash hands immediately after using the product, and before eating, drinking, using the bathroom, chewing gum, or using tobacco
  • remove clothing immediately if the product gets absorbed into the fabric, and wash thoroughly, and
  • discard and do not reuse any clothing that has become drenched or soaked with the concentrated liquid.

Bayer has announced that it will remove glyphosate-based Roundup from the consumer market in 2023. The German manufacturing giant hopes that the move will take some of the air out of its ballooning liability over the popular weed killing product. But what will a glyphosate-free Roundup look like? According to a statement from Bayer, new formulations will "rely on alternative active ingredients," subject to review and approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state safety agencies.

Who Can File a Roundup Lawsuit?

In order to file a personal injury lawsuit against Bayer/Monsanto or another manufacturer of glyphosate products, you'll almost certainly need to demonstrate that you've been diagnosed with an illness (such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) that might be attributable to your exposure to the herbicide.

The mere fact that you've used Roundup or have a bottle of it in your house isn't enough to file an injury- or illness-related lawsuit against Bayer/Monsanto. It's also not enough to be concerned over Bayer/Monsanto's failure to properly warn consumers of potential risks inherent to use of the product. There may be other non-injury kinds of class actions you can join in those situations, but the Roundup MDL and other illness-related lawsuits against Bayer/Monsanto require measurable harm caused by the product.

Diagnosis of a Roundup-related illness like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma 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 "noneconomic" damages such as "pain and suffering" and similar, more subjective impacts related to the Roundup-related health problems. 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.

Most lawsuits over the safety of Roundup rely on a personal injury fault theory known as "product liability," which can be used to hold manufacturers like Bayer/Monsanto responsible for illness and injury caused by a dangerous or defective product, or for failure to adequately warn consumers of risks associated with the product's use.

In a number of lawsuits in which plaintiffs allege that their illness was caused by use of Roundup, Bayer/Monsanto has asked the court to essentially dismiss any allegations that the product causes cancer. But most of these requests have been denied, on the grounds that a reasonable jury could potentially find that glyphosate causes cancer.

There's a significant liability-related theme threaded through the Roundup lawsuits that have gone to trial and resulted in big verdicts for the plaintiffs. In most of those cases, the juries didn't conclude that glyphosate caused the plaintiffs' non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Instead, they found that Bayer/Monsanto didn't do enough to warn the plaintiffs of the potential health risks associated with use of Roundup.

Science aside, the juries' conclusions bring up an important point that's more practical than legal: From Bayer/Monsanto's perspective, more so than any study or agency finding, big jury verdicts against the company likely represent the most damaging indication of its exposure to financial responsibility for Roundup-related illness. That exposure was tempered somewhat in recent years, when a handful of jury verdicts came back in Bayer's favor. But given that plaintiffs' verdicts amounted to more than $2 billion to close out 2023, the only trend here seems to be unpredictability.

How Much Is a Roundup Case Worth?

Like all injury-related legal claims, the value of a Roundup lawsuit will depend on the plaintiff's specific circumstances and experience, including:

  • the details of your Roundup-related health problems, including diagnosis of the nature and extent of the illness, prognosis for ongoing treatment, and prospects for a full recovery
  • the impact of your illness on your ability to work or otherwise earn income, now and in the future
  • the effects of your illness and medical treatment on your daily life, including your ability to perform household chores, care for loved ones, enjoy activities and hobbies, etc.
  • the extent of your physical pain and discomfort, and
  • any mental anguish, anxiety, sleeplessness, and other negative effects of your illness and medical treatment.
Let's look at a few categories of "damages" in a bit more detail.

Cost of Past and Future Medical Care In Roundup Cases

If you've been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or any other health condition linked to your use of Roundup, and you've undergone treatment, the costs of all testing and care would be counted as part of your damages. The same goes for any care you'll require in the future, including costs of monitoring your condition.

If you haven't received a reliable prognosis, or the full extent and impact of your medical problems isn't well-defined, it's not a good idea to accept an injury settlement offer. Your attorney will almost certainly want to wait until both of you have a clear understanding of your condition and the care you'll require in the future, because once you accept a settlement, you can't go back and reopen your claim, even if you learn that your Roundup-related health problems are worse than you first thought.

Lost Income and Diminished Earning Capacity In Roundup Lawsuits

If you've been forced to take time off from your job or have otherwise been unable to earn income because of a Roundup-related illness like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, those economic losses will also factor into your damages.

Income-related damages based on future income are characterized as compensation for the injured person's "loss of earning capacity" or "diminished earning capacity" in legalese.

"Pain and Suffering" In a Roundup Case

While medical bills and lost income are fairly easy to calculate in a Roundup illness case, "pain and suffering" damages aren't so easy to assess, but they can be a crucial factor in the value of a Roundup lawsuit.

Pain and suffering is often broken down into two components:

  • physical pain and suffering, such as the discomfort resulting from your illness and the course of care necessary to treat it (including chemotherapy and radiation therapy), and
  • mental pain and suffering, or the subjective psychological impact of your physical pain—including emotional distress, fear, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, sleeplessness, and other negative impacts.

How Long Do I Have to File a Roundup Lawsuit?

Time limits for filing a Roundup lawsuit are set by a law called a "statute of limitations." In some 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 other states have a separate statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits. Whichever statute applies, you'll typically have two to three years to get your lawsuit filed (the deadline is shorter in some states, longer in a few), but it's not always easy to figure out when the "clock" starts ticking in a Roundup case.

A lawsuit over the safety of a product like Roundup isn't like most other kinds of personal injury cases. If you're hurt in a car accident, for example, your injuries typically make themselves known right away, and there's little doubt about the cause of your harm. With product-related injuries, especially cases involving illness linked to chemicals like glyphosate, there's often a gap between the exposure to the harmful chemical and the onset of a disease or other health problem caused by that product. When it comes to cancers like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, there's even a term for this gap: "latency period."

This latency is a big reason why 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 (alongside indications that glyphosate may be linked to those symptoms). But keep in mind that if a significant number of years have passed between your last use of Roundup and the onset of your illness, another time limit called the "statute of repose" might prevent you from bringing a case against Bayer/Monsanto.

Regardless of how long it's been since you used Roundup, talk to an attorney for details on lawsuit-filing deadlines and how they might apply to your specific situation.

How Do I Prove I've Used Roundup?

An important way to establish your use of Roundup is through documentation. That could mean receipts showing that you purchased the product for use at your home, or written employment protocols, work orders, or invoices if you used Roundup as part of your job.

If you've got bank statements or other financial records showing you made a purchase at a home improvement or gardening store on a particular day, you might be able to contact the store and ask if there's an itemized record of your transaction showing that you purchased Roundup. If you've got empty or partially used bottles of Roundup, those might come in handy too.

But as a practical matter, it's pretty unlikely that Bayer/Monsanto's legal team will pour time and resources into a significant fight over whether or not you actually used Roundup. That's especially true if you've been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or some other cancer. It's more likely that Bayer/Monsanto's legal team will argue that you failed to follow labeling and instructions on proper use of the product (including specific guidelines on safe ratios for mixing concentrated Roundup with water). The company may also try to argue that you failed to take reasonable safety precautions—like use of a face mask or protective clothing—when applying Roundup.

Can You Sue an Employer for Roundup Exposure?

In addition to Bayer/Monsanto, an employer might be liable for an employee's illness caused by on-the-job use of Roundup or another glyphosate product. That's especially true if a lack of proper safety equipment (or defects in the equipment provided to you) made it more likely that you'd inhale or come into direct contact with higher levels of glyphosate. But keep in mind that if you've already accepted workers' compensation benefits in connection with your glyphosate-related illness, or if you're still working for the employer, you might not be able to sue for on-the-job exposure to glyphosate—a workers' compensation claim could be your exclusive remedy. (This potential workers' compensation issue is another point to discuss with an attorney.)

Note that if your lawsuit involves a defendant other than Bayer/Monsanto (if you're also suing your employer, for example), that fact might affect your options in terms of where you can file your lawsuit. A number of Roundup lawsuits have been removed from the federal multi-district litigation (which we'll discuss a bit later) and "remanded" back to state court for this very reason (plaintiffs were suing employers in their own state, along with Bayer/Monsanto). Most of those lawsuits will proceed as individual cases back in the state where the plaintiff lives.

Can a Worker Ever Sue an Employer Over Roundup-Related Illness?

State workers' compensation schemes vary, but a worker may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against an employer (instead of filing a workers' compensation claim) if one of three main exceptions apply:

  • the employer doesn't have any (or doesn't have enough) workers' compensation insurance
  • the injury is the result of the employer's intentional, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct (note that an employer's failure to warn an employee about the risks of using Roundup probably would not meet this exception), or
  • the injured worker is not an employee, but an independent contractor.

Is There a Class Action Against Monsanto I Could Join?

There is no class action involving claims that use of Roundup or exposure to glyphosate caused actual illness or injury. Note that there's been at least one class action over inadequate product warnings of health risks posed by Roundup. That case settled for $45 million in July 2022, but the class's claims were limited to the potential dangers of Roundup. No allegations of actual illness were included.

The closest thing to a Roundup-related class action over illness caused by the weed killer is the consolidation of around 4,000 Roundup claims in a federal "multidistrict litigation" (MDL) action. But note that the MDL is a consolidated group of individual cases in which the plaintiffs still largely control their own legal destinies. In a class action, one or a few individuals represent the interests of all class members, and everyone in the class is bound by the result.

The Roundup MDL (officially called "In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation") is being handled by Judge Vince Chhabria in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. This MDL also includes many cases originally filed in state court and later "removed" to the MDL, usually at Bayer/Monsanto's request. But it's important to note that the majority of Roundup lawsuits aren't included in the MDL. So the procedural ins and outs of that action aren't a concern for many current and future Roundup claimants.

Have There Been Roundup Settlements?

In 2020, Bayer announced a $10 billion agreement to settle a large chunk of Roundup lawsuits, but it's estimated that as many as 50,000 such cases remain underway, in one form or another.

Bayer has also announced that it has set aside as much as $6.5 billion to resolve future Roundup cases, and despite a series of big plaintiffs' verdicts handed down to close out 2023, the company says it intends to continue fighting these lawsuits. The announcement that Roundup (in its current form) won't be sold for residential use after 2023 seems to dovetail with company strategy.

It's important to note that no Roundup-related legal action that's taken place—or any settlement agreement that's been reached—so far will affect the rights of anyone who has yet to file their own Roundup lawsuit.

For now, if you're experiencing health problems that could be linked to your use of a glyphosate product like Roundup, it's important to get a complete picture of your rights and your options. Your best first step is discussing your situation with an attorney.

Get Professional Help

Talk to an attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you