Roundup lawsuits usually start after the plaintiff learns that they have developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or some other health problem that can be attributed to use of the popular weed killer. Here's what you need to know:
Most Roundup lawsuits are based on allegations of a connection between glyphosate and the development of a form of cancer called non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Roundup lawsuits have been brought by groundskeepers, landscapers, and weekend gardeners, among other kinds of plaintiffs. A few cases have even been brought on behalf of children whose health problems are said to relate back to glyphosate exposure.
Roundup cases almost always rely on a legal concept called "product liability," in which the plaintiff tries to show that a product is unreasonably dangerous or that the manufacturer failed to properly warn consumers of health risks associated with the product (note that Roundup hasn't been recalled).
Keep in mind that having used Roundup in the past (even extensively) isn't enough to file an injury claim against Bayer or anyone else. Eligibility for filing a Roundup lawsuit comes down to:
Many Roundup lawsuits filed against Bayer have made their way into the ongoing Roundup "multi-district litigation" (MDL), which is a special procedural grouping of similar cases, meant to speed up and simplify pretrial matters as much as possible. A number of Roundup lawsuits have reached the trial stage, with juries handing down fairly large verdicts for plaintiffs in the first few cases, and Bayer prevailing in the next few. There's been extensive discussion of a global settlement of present and future Roundup claims, but nothing definitive has come from these talks. Get the latest news on the MDL, settlements, verdicts, and more on our Roundup Lawsuit News page.
It's not a scientific certainty. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared in 2015 that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic." But in 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that glyphosate is "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans." Top health agencies in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and New Zealand have sided with the EPA, but numerous studies have found a clear causal link between Roundup and cancer, including 2019 research from the University of Washington.
While no definitive scientific link between glyphosate and cancer has been established, there's at least evidence to suggest a correlation, and a number of juries have found enough of a causal connection to award millions of dollars to Roundup plaintiffs.
In any personal injury or product liability case, including lawsuits over herbicides like Roundup, the specifics of the plaintiff's health problems are critical. They shape the value of the case, making an accurate diagnosis essential.
Diagnosis goes straight to the nature and extent of the plaintiff's losses ("damages" in the language of the law). A glyphosate case almost always includes both "economic" damages (covering the cost of medical treatment, lost income, and other quantifiable losses) and "non-economic" damages (applying to pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and similar, more subjective consequences of the plaintiff's health problems). Learn more about how much your Roundup case might be worth.
Manufacturers like Bayer have disputed contentions that glyphosate is a carcinogen, pointing to determinations by entities like the EPA (discussed above). When faced with a lawsuit over the safety of glyphosate products, Bayer and other companies may well argue that the plaintiff doesn't actually have any disease, or that the plaintiff's health problems are attributable to some other cause.
That's part of why diagnosis is so important to any case—an undiagnosed disease or an inaccurate diagnosis makes it much easier for the defense to argue that the plaintiff hasn't proven that the health problems came from use of the product. Indeed, it's a good idea to see a doctor at the first sign of any glyphosate-related health problems—to protect not only any lawsuit you decide to file, but also your health.
Laws called "statutes of limitations" set time limits on the right to file a lawsuit.
Since health problems linked to Roundup/glyphosate can progress gradually, it's not always clear when the plaintiff's "injury" actually occurred for purposes of the filing deadline. In some states (like California), the date the person knew (or should have known in the eyes of the law) that the illness was related to glyphosate is typically the start of the statutory time period. In Roundup cases, this could be the date on which the plaintiff was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or another condition (perhaps a form of leukemia, for example).
But other factors can influence when the statute of limitations "clock" is said to start. In some jurisdictions, that the plaintiff became or should have become aware of the injury or illness is what matters, not their potential or actual knowledge of the cause of that harm. Product manufacturers have also been known to argue that the onset of symptoms (not necessarily a clear diagnosis) is enough to start the statute of limitations "clock" in certain cases, and some courts have agreed. (More: What if symptoms of Roundup-related health problems don't show up right away?)
Bottom line: If you wait too long to file your lawsuit, you might be barred from pursuing a Roundup case. An extension of the deadline might be possible, but you should consult a lawyer as soon as you begin to think about whether you have a viable case.
Many states have a specific statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits, while in other jurisdictions the limitations period for general personal injury lawsuits will apply. Either way, the filing deadline in most states ranges from one to six years for a lawsuit over health problems caused by glyphosate. For wrongful death lawsuits, a different statute of limitations applies (usually setting a deadline of one to two years from the decedent's death). Your Roundup lawyer will be very familiar with the different statutes of limitations in your state, and it's their job to sort out the details when it comes to the applicable deadlines.
Most lawyers will not start a Roundup lawsuit until they have confirmed that a possible client has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or some other health problem that could be linked to use of Roundup or another glyphosate-based product. Attorneys know that defendants like Bayer won't take a lawsuit seriously unless the plaintiff can allege (and prove) clear, quantifiable damages. (Learn more about how lawyers decide to take an injury case.)
Some attorneys will arrange for a health assessment (a physical examination and imaging tests) for potential clients who have a history of long-term use of a glyphosate-based product (the potential client is employed as a groundskeeper, for example). Other times attorneys will order medical records from the potential client's doctor or hospital and send the material to medical experts for evaluation.
If your doctor does not think you have a glyphosate-related disease, but a lawyer's medical expert thinks you do, you can take the expert's report to your own doctor for a follow-up exam, or seek a second opinion from a different doctor.
When a lawyer takes your Roundup case, he or she will determine which defendant(s) to sue and then file a "complaint" in the proper court. If joining the MDL seems like sound strategy for your Roundup case, you and your lawyer will make that call after discussing your options.
Regardless of where your lawsuit is filed, the complaint is the legal document that starts the lawsuit and asks for damages from the defendant. (Note that a lawsuit doesn't always need to be filed; any product liability lawsuit can settle out of court, at any time. See the timeline of a typical Roundup case.)
Next, the case moves into the "discovery" phase, when both sides gather evidence. Your lawyer might need to order additional medical documentation for retained experts to review. Your lawyer's medical experts might also examine you.
Defendants are usually entitled to see whatever medical information the plaintiff's lawyer has that's relevant to the case. If you have a case, your lawyer will probably need to provide the defense with a list of facilities where you've been examined or treated. The plaintiff's lawyer usually hands over this kind of information as "answers to interrogatories," part of the discovery phase.
When the defense attorneys decide they want to look at specific medical records the plaintiff's lawyer hasn't already provided, the plaintiff often has to give authorization allowing the release of further medical information. Because of privacy regulations, each authorization must be specific to the facility, so the plaintiff might have to sign a lot of forms.
Sometimes the defense asks for medical information by issuing a subpoena to a facility. If they take this route, they have to notify the plaintiff's attorney. If the request is for something inappropriate or irrelevant, the attorney can try to block the subpoena or review records first to protect the plaintiff's privacy.
Normally, the defense can also have its own medical expert examine the plaintiff (this step is called an "independent medical examination"). The plaintiff's attorney helps arrange such an exam and should protect the client from any improprieties, such as medical tests that aren't related to the plaintiff's claims.
If you have a Roundup case and it gets to the point of a deposition (or even trial), the defense will ask you about your health generally, your glyphosate-related health problems, your diagnosis, and your treatment. Sometimes plaintiffs' deposition (and trial) answers differ from their written answers to interrogatories because of a mistake in memory. These small discrepancies are normal and extremely unlikely to affect the plaintiff's case. If you have a case, you don't need to prove that your diagnosis is correct or even understand the medical details; expert witnesses will weigh in on those subjects.
As touched on above, the Roundup MDL has come close to reaching settlement on a number of occasions, with representatives and parties agreeing to an initial $10.9 billion settlement in 2020. That deal didn't meet with the MDL judge's approval, however, especially as it applies to the rights of future Roundup claimants. A number of options have been weighed, including the creation of a class action for future Roundup claimants. Bayer announced a plan to create a compensation program for future claimants, but in 2021 the company also earmarked an additional $4.5 billion for resolution of Roundup claims.
On top of all that, the company is hoping that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will provide something of a last word on the provable scientific dangers of glyphosate. In short, global settlement of Roundup claims is in something of a holding pattern.
If you're considering filing a Roundup/glyphosate lawsuit, your best first step might be discussing your situation with an attorney. An experienced legal professional can evaluate the specifics of your case and explain your options, including the pros and cons of joining the Roundup MDL. You can use the tools right on this page to connect with a Roundup lawyer in your area. Answering a few questions will get you on your way to a free case evaluation. Learn more about finding the right attorney for you and your Roundup case.