Jury awards man $289M in Monsanto cancer trial

A Vallejo man with cancer was awarded $250 million in punitive damages today in a landmark lawsuit against herbicide manufacturer Monsanto. Following three days of deliberations, a San Francisco Superior Court jury found that Monsanto’s weed killer product was a factor in causing plaintiff Dewayne Johnson’s cancer’s diagnosis.

The jury also found that Monsanto had knowledge that their product was harmful and that the company is negligent for failing to warn consumers about its links to cancer.

In addition to the punitive damages, the jury also awarded Johnson more than $39 million in compensatory damages.

Johnson, who continues to suffer from cancer and is set to undergo chemotherapy in the coming weeks, smiled and hugged his lawyers following the verdict.

During the 8-week trial, Johnson, 37, testified that he used Roundup multiple times between 2012 and 2016 while working as a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District.

He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014 and continued to use the product and, at one point, allegedly called Monsanto to ask about whether there was a link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Johnson also testified that although he would wear protective gear while using the product, it would constantly get on his face and even twice spilled onto his body.

Monsanto’s attorneys argued during the trial that the main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is not linked to cancer, citing a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finding, which stated that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an attorney representing Johnson, said outside of court, “Monsanto has been taking a playbook from the tobacco industry, ghostwriting science, buying science, using all the different key mark strategies and the legal strategies to confuse the science and blur the science.” Kennedy is with Baum Hedlund Aristei and Goldman, PC.

Of Johnson, Kennedy said, “He’s such a good man. He’s a hardworking, he’s a good father, he’s trying to do the right thing.

“Maybe with the money he’ll get from his case, there’s state-of-the-art medicine… he may be able to afford that.”

Scott Partridge, Vice President of Global Strategy for Monsanto, said, “We all have tremendous sympathy for Mr. Johnson and his family. What they’ve gone through with his disease is terrible.

“The verdict today, it doesn’t change the overwhelming scientific evidence and the 40 years of safe use of glyphosate around the world. It’s the most widely used herbicide in the world, it’s the most widely studied herbicide in the world.

“We will appeal. This is the beginning, obviously, of a very, very long process… the verdict today does not change the science,” he said. “Glyphosate does not cause cancer. It’s been perfectly safe and that’s been demonstrated for more than four decades.”

Glyphosate’s weed-killing properties were discovered in the 1970s and in 1974, Monsanto began selling it under the name Roundup.  

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