Settlement talks between the parties are ongoing as a judge in California excused 16 jurors on Friday, January 31. In an effort to avoid derailing ongoing discussions, the parties agreed to the last minute continuance in the hopes an agreement could be reached to resolve the over 42,000 pending claims that allege Monsanto’s popular weed killer, Roundup, causes cancer. The empaneled jurors had already undergone a two week selection process and the trial had been scheduled to start on Friday. This is the second trial to have been postponed citing the ongoing mediation efforts currently underway before special master Ken Feinberg; the first trial had been pending in St. Louis and had involved four plaintiffs suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In addition, the recent refusal of Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith to require judges in other California jurisdictions to conduct multi-plaintiff trials may inure to the benefit of defendant Bayer and assist the ongoing settlement negotiations by delaying the plaintiffs’ path to trial. Judge Smith is the judge charged with overseeing the 128 cases consolidated in California state court. Experts state that by requiring plaintiffs’ counsel to pursue their cases one at a time, it could take years for cases to get to trial and benefit the defendant by forcing individual plaintiffs to prove causation one case at a time instead of addressing the issue on behalf of a group. Some plaintiffs’ counsel disagree with this approach, arguing that single plaintiff cases provide more reliable verdicts that will withstand appeal and will likely provide a more reliable indication of the cases in the litigation. Judge Smith’s ruling does not preclude a judge who is assigned a large number of Roundup cases in the future from consolidating them for trial but it does give Bayer additional time to reach a deal.