By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D
A class action settlement pursuant to which Monsanto agreed to pay $21.5 million to resolve consumer fraud claims involving two of the company’s Roundup® Concentrate products was approved by a federal district court in Missouri. The court also approved attorney fees in the amount of 28 percent of the settlement fund, for a total of $6,020,000. In agreeing to settle the various consumer fraud claims, Monsanto did not admit to the allegations in the underlying complaint and denies any wrongdoing (Rawa v. Monsanto Co., May 25, 2018, Fleissing, A.).
The settlement resolves two separate class actions filed against Monsanto—one in Missouri and one in California—which were consolidated in the Missouri federal court. In the Missouri class action, the complaint alleged that Monsanto engaged in misleading practices in violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by overstating on the label of its Roundup® Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate Plus or its Roundup® Weed & Grass Killer Super Concentrate the number of gallons of spray solution the concentrates would make. The California class action alleged violations of the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act and various California consumer protection laws.
According to the specific allegations in the Missouri class action complaint, a small label on the front of the containers near the top stated, "Makes Up to" a certain number of gallons and a multipage booklet label attached to the back of the container advised as to different dilution options, the least concentrated of which would yield the "up to" amount noted on the front label. However, when the mixing instructions were followed, each bottle only made between about 50 percent (for Roundup Concentrate plus) or 60 percent (for Roundup Super Concentrate) of the amount promised. The complaint further alleged that the named class representative relied on those statements when purchasing the at-issue Roundup Concentrates, determining that the concentrated products were a better value than the ready-to-use version. As a result, the purchaser allegedly received different and substantially lesser value products at a higher cost than Monsanto had represented. In addition, Monsanto failed to meet the purchaser’s expectations and the purchaser did not realize the benefit of the bargain.
Class membership. The court certified a nationwide class that includes those consumers who purchased Roundup Concentrate products on or after April 5, 2012 (the date the Missouri class action complaint was filed), of the relevant year under their state’s statute of limitations and those consumers in California who purchased these products on or after October 13, 2012 (the date the California class action complaint was filed). The Roundup Concentrate products covered by this settlement must have had packaging that stated "Makes Up to __ Gallons" on the neck or shoulder of the bottle.
Settlement fund. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, class members who file valid claims will receive refunds of up to 50 percent of the average retail price for each Roundup Concentrate item purchased during the class period. Claims are limited to 20 units per household and refunds will be issued only to those class members who submit a valid Claim Form, which is subject to review and approval by the claims administrator. Proof of purchase will not be required to establish a valid claim. Settlement documents provide a breakdown of the unit price for each Roundup Concentrate product covered by this settlement. The refund amount may be reduced on a pro rata basis if claims exceed the amount remaining in the $21.5-million settlement fund after all litigation expenses have been paid.
Label changes. Monsanto also agreed to change the labels on Roundup Concentrates to further clarify the dilution rates and mixing instructions, acknowledging that the lawsuits accelerated this action. According to the terms of the settlement agreement, Monsanto agreed to consult with Class Counsel regarding potential label changes. However, the ultimate timing and content of any label changes will remain at the sole discretion of Monsanto. The settlement agreement further provides that after making a label change, Monsanto will have a reasonable period of time to exhaust existing inventories and to remove products with the current "Makes up to" neck or shoulder label from the marketplace. Any products sold from Monsanto’s inventory with the "Makes up to" neck or shoulder label will be included in the settlement agreement’s release of claims, and any consumer who purchases these products during the inventory removal period and prior to the Notice date will be entitled to make a claim under the settlement structure.
Attorneys: John Joseph Fitzgerald, IV (The Law Office of Jack Fitzgerald, PC) for Joshua Rawa. Erik L. Hansell (Husch Blackwell, LLP) for Monsanto Co.
Companies: Monsanto Co.
MainStory: TopStory SettlementAgreementsNews ClassActLitigationNews ChemicalNews CaliforniaNews MissouriNews
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