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Does agreed postponement of Roundup case signal a settlement?

Bayer AG has so far lost three court cases in the U.S. brought by plaintiffs who claim that its popular weed killer Roundup causes cancer. The German company has appealed the court decisions, and continues to assert that the product is safe for people to use. However, it's currently facing over 18,000 legal claims.

Bayer inherited the Roundup legal quagmire when it acquired Monsanto, the manufacturer of the widely-used herbicide, last year. Although it paid $63 billion for the company, the price of its stock has dropped by over a third since the acquisition, and its market value has dropped by over $30 billion.

In the latest twist, a case that was scheduled to be the last one of the year has been postponed. Both sides reportedly requested the postponement. This has led analysts to speculate that they're working towards a settlement. The latest postponement follows two others in August.

Environmental advocates have been warning about the dangers of glyphosate -- Roundup's primary ingredient -- for years. Meanwhile, its use has increased significantly worldwide since the mid-1990s. That's in part because of the development of genetically-modified "Roundup Ready" crops that won't be harmed by the weed killer.

There have been conflicting findings in studies of the link between Roundup and various types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Certainly, any risk would be greater for farmers who use it regularly and in large quantities on their crops than for homeowners who use it on their lawns. However, two years ago, California included glyphosate in the substances that are required to carry a toxicity warning. The state has listed glyphosate as a carcinogen.

Major investors are reportedly encouraging Bayer to consider settling this recently postponed case. Estimates vary widely on how much it would cost the company to settle all of the pending Roundup cases. Analysts have estimated anywhere from $2.5 to $20 billion.

Going up against a giant international company to seek compensation for harm caused by exposure to a toxic product can be daunting. That's why many of these legal actions are handled as class-action lawsuits. If you believe that you have a case, it's wise to consult with an attorney who's experienced in toxic exposure lawsuits.

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