Monsanto Rocked with $289 Million Jury Verdict in Roundup Case

Jurors in a high stakes San Francisco Superior Court case unanimously found that RoundUp herbicides manufactured and sold by the Corporation formerly known as Monsanto caused 46-year-old former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson to contract a terminal form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Johnson testified that Monsanto should not have let him use the herbicide near school children, saying: “I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm.”

The jurors awarded Johnson $289 Million in damages, of which $250 Million were for punitive damages. The jury unanimously agreed that Monsanto acted with malice and oppression because the documentary evidence presented in the case showed the company had allegedly been aware for decades that the herbicide products could cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Johnson’s lawyers argued over the course of a During the month-long trial Johnson’s lawyers argued that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson is the first person to take the agrichemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the Roundup brand can cause cancer.

Johnson’s victory may set a precedent for an estimated 4,000 other cases claiming that exposure to the weed killer products caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial because his doctors said he was near death.  The Court ruled that in California, dying plaintiffs can be granted expedited trials.

After the verdict was announced the value of Bayer stock plummeted.  Monsanto merged with the German Agrichemical giant earlier this year in a merger valued at approximately $66 Billion.

Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner said in a statement that “We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that Roundup could cause cancer.

Wisner added that the verdict sent a “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits.”

Wisner added that the verdict sent a “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits.”

A Monsanto spokesperson said the company intends to appeal the verdict.

The fallout from the verdict may also have an impact on the Proposition 65 listing of Glyphosate—the active ingredient in the Roundup herbicide products.

Although the chemical is listed under Proposition 65 as a carcinogen, a federal Judge in the Eastern district of California ruled earlier this year that the state could not compel Monsanto to provide Proposition 65 warnings because the listing of glyphosate was highly controversial and requiring a warning would violate the company’s First Amendment rights because requiring a warning would be compelled speech.  However the documentary evidence presented in the trial may persuade the federal judge to reconsider his decision about the controversial nature of the listing of glyphosate.

Carey Gillam, an investigative journalist and author of a new book, “Whitewash,” that describes Monsanto’s history with glyphosate and the revelations found in the company’s internal records, said that the Johnson case has shined a white hot spotlight on Monsanto’s attempts to conceal the toxicity of glyphosate for the past four decades, and cover up studies linking the chemical to cancer.

With this verdict an estimated 4,000 other plaintiffs with similar claims, Monsanto could be in court for decades to come and it could cost them and its new owner, Bayer, hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars in damages, and tarnish their brand for a long time to come.

 

 

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