The Cost of Roundup: Examining the Average Payout for Glyphosate Lawsuits
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller Roundup, has become entangled in a web of litigation that has resulted in massive payouts to plaintiffs alleging the chemical caused their cancer. With over 100,000 lawsuits filed against Roundup’s manufacturer Monsanto since 2015, the company has shelled out billions in damages and settlements so far. But with so many different cases and payout amounts, what does the average settlement look like for these glyphosate-related lawsuits? Let’s take a closer look.
A Short History of Monsanto’s Roundup
First introduced by Monsanto in 1974, Roundup quickly became one of the most widely used herbicides around the world. The main ingredient, glyphosate, is effective at killing weeds and grasses, especially when used in conjunction with genetically modified “Roundup Ready” crops that are resistant to the chemical. Monsanto marketed Roundup as safe for humans and the environment, even though internal company documents revealed possible carcinogenic effects dating back to the 80s.
It wasn’t until 2015 that glyphosate was officially classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This sparked a flood of lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by exposure to Roundup. The first three cases saw huge wins for the plaintiffs, including jury awards of $289 million and $2 billion, though these amounts were later reduced on appeal. Still, with evidence mounting against the safety of glyphosate, over 100,000 plaintiffs have now filed suit against Monsanto and its parent company Bayer.
Early Settlements Reach Tens of Millions
The earliest Roundup cases to settle saw massive payouts to plaintiffs, reflecting the uncertainty around litigation and damages at the time. In 2019, the first few cases ended in an average settlement of around $25 million per plaintiff. However, legal experts predicted these huge sums would decrease as more cases were resolved.
As dozens more cases settled over the next year, the average dropped to between $10-15 million per plaintiff. Though well below the blockbuster awards, these were still life-changing amounts for the cancer victims and their families. Some of the largest early settlements included:
- $80 million to Edwin Hardeman in 2019
- $225 million to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, married plaintiffs, in 2019
- $10.9 million to Andrei Bander in 2020
Median Settlement Amounts Fall to Six Figures
By 2021, the median payouts for settled Roundup cases had dropped dramatically, usually falling between $200,000 to $2 million per plaintiff. While certainly not small amounts, it reflected Bayer’s legal strategy of resolving cases quickly to avoid more massive jury verdicts. Some contributing factors to the lower settlement averages included:
- The plaintiff’s age and severity of illness
- Strength of evidence tying cancer to Roundup
- Whether EPA labels warned of cancer risk at time of exposure
- How long the plaintiff sprayed or worked with Roundup
Many cases experienced delays in settlement talks if plaintiffs insisted on larger amounts, leaving them unresolved for longer. For those willing to settle faster, the tradeoff was accepting a lower offer from Bayer. However, outlier verdicts have still occurred, like the stunning $2 billion jury award to Alva and Alberta Pilliod which was lowered to $86 million on appeal.
Bayer’s Billion-Dollar Settlement Deal
In 2020, Bayer decided to settle close to 95,000 pending Roundup cases in one massive $10.9 billion settlement. The deal proposed payouts from $10,000 to $200,000 for individual plaintiffs based on the strength of their claims. The average payout amounted to around $110,000 per person, a large reduction but far quicker than years of legal wrangling.
This landmark settlement included:
- $8.8 billion for current claims, averaging $110,000 per case
- $1.6 billion set aside for possible future claims
- Creation of independent panel to determine if Roundup causes cancer
The settlement offered Roundup users who had developed NHL a faster route to compensation. However, some plaintiffs still rejected the offer in hopes of higher payouts through full trials. Approximately 30,000 cases remained unsettled after the deal.
Recent Settlement Trends and Averages
After the mega-settlement in 2020, Bayer has continued working through outstanding claims on a case-by-case basis. In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Bayer’s appeal of the Hardeman case, making it unlikely the court will overturn the bulk of the settlement awards.
Recent data shows the average settlements now range from $165,000 to $200,000 per plaintiff, though amounts can still vary widely. Awards appear to be trending downward overall as more cases enter mediation. With tens of thousands of lawsuits still pending, it’s expected Bayer will pay out at least $10 to $15 billion more before the glyphosate litigation ends.
The Bottom Line on Roundup Payouts
Determining an average payout amount for Roundup lawsuits is tricky business, with so many variables affecting individual cases. But after 8 years of mounting legal action, some patterns have emerged in the settlement data:
- The first few plaintiffs saw massive awards in the $25+ million range
- As case numbers grew, averages dropped to $10-15 million
- Median payouts now fall between around $200k to $2 million
- Bayer’s billion-dollar settlement deal averaged $110,000 per plaintiff
- Current estimates put new settlements in the range of $165k to $200k
While specific settlement amounts depend on the strength of each person’s claim, the downward slope of average payouts seems likely to continue. With Bayer already paying out $14 billion to date and tens of thousands of cases left, the final costs of Roundup litigation will certainly balloon higher. Although no amount of money can make up for the loss of health and life, at least some justice is being served to the victims of exposure to this dangerous herbicide.