WASHINGTON: A federal judge on Tuesday (May 18) questioned why he should approve a US$2 billion proposal by Bayer AG that would create a framework for resolving future claims that the company's Roundup weedkiller causes cancer, casting doubt a day before a key hearing on the plan.
Bayer and class action attorneys are hoping US District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco will give preliminary approval on Wednesday for a settlement that would create a compensation fund for people who get sick years in the future from exposure to Roundup.
The company has said that decades of studies have shown Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate do not cause cancer and are safe for human use.
Consumer groups and personal injury lawyers have criticised the plan, which also prevents Roundup users who get non-Hodkin lymphoma from suing for four years and bars them from seeking punitive damages from Bayer.
Chhabria in a court filing asked if it was possible to contact the potentially millions of homeowners and farmworkers who have been exposed to Roundup to notify them that they were going to be bound by the settlement.
He also questioned how he would determine if the compensation was adequate and whether he should evaluate the plan against other options, including Bayer adding a cancer warning label to Roundup, something the company has resisted.
If his main concerns were addressed at the hearing, Chhabria said a second hearing would be scheduled to address smaller concerns.
The company has committed US$9.6 billion to settle existing claims that Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. The plan under consideration by Chhabria would resolve future claims.
Bayer inherited the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, and the litigation, as part of a US$63 billion acquisition of Monsanto in 2018.