Court verdict awards man who claims that Roundup caused his terminal cancer $289 million
Monsanto plans to appeal a verdict that awarded $289 million to a dying man who blamed its herbicide Roundup for his cancer.
Attorneys for the 46-year-old former school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, said the decision will bolster thousands of pending cases and open the door for countless people who blame their suffering on the weed killer, according to an Associated Press story by Paul Elias today.
"I'm glad to be here to be able to help in a cause that's way bigger than me," the plaintiff reportedly said about yesterday's verdict.
The California Superior Court jury in San Francisco unanimously agreed that Johnson's heavy contact with Roundup contributed to his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
and that, the story said, "Monsanto should have provided a label warning of the potential health hazard."
The $289 million was broken down into $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 in punitive damages. Johnson's lawyers had sought a total of $373 million.
|Robert F. Kennedy Jr.|
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an attorney for Johnson and the son of the late U.S. senator, declared on Twitter that the punitive damages were for "acting with malice and oppression."
He predicted that the verdict "is going to trigger a cascade of new cases."
An online Common Dreams story quoted Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association, an advocacy group and longtime Monsanto critic, to the effect that the verdict proves "there is no confusion" when "ordinary citizens, in this case a jury of 12, hear the facts about Monsanto's products, and the lengths to which this company has gone to buy off scientists, deceive the public and influence government regulatory agencies."
And, to twist the knife, he added: "This is a company that has always put profits ahead of public safety…We hope that this is just the first of many defeats for Monsanto, and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will pull this product off the market."
The case was the first filed by a cancer patient against the agribusiness giant to reach trial. It was fast-tracked because of the severity of Johnson's cancer.
Elias' story quoted Brent Wisner, Johnson's lead trial lawyer, as saying that the jury has told Monsanto, a unit of Bayer AG following a $62.5 billion acquisition by the German conglomerate"
"Enough. You did something wrong and now you have to pay…There's 4,000 other cases filed around the United States and there are countless thousands of people out there who are suffering from cancer because Monsanto didn't give them a choice…We now have a way forward."
Monsanto, one of the companies that produced for use by U.S. forces in Vietnam the defoliant Agent Orange, which has been linked to cancer and other diseases, has long denied any link between glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, and cancer.
It has cited hundreds of studies that glyphosate contending is safe.
Scott Partridge, a spokesman for the agribusiness giant, said the corporation will appeal "and vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others."
Johnson had used Roundup — and a similar product, Ranger Pro — as a pest control manager at a San Francisco Bay Area school district in Benicia, spraying from a 50-gallon tank attached to a truck. During gusty winds, Wisner said, the product would cover his face — and once, when a hose broke, the weed killer soaked his entire body.
He allegedly had applied Roundup up to 30 times a year.
When Johnson contacted the company after developing a rash, the attorney added, he was never warned it could cause cancer.
His non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was diagnosed in 2014. His landmark case was filed two years later.
George Lombardi, another Monsanto attorney, said that disease takes years to develop, so Johnson's cancer must have started well before he started working at the district, the AP story notes.
"The simple fact is," Wisner told the jury (which deliberated for three days at the end of the eight-week trial) in his opening statement in July, "he is going to die. It's just a matter of time."
His doctors have indicated that that's likely to happen within two years. Whether he dies before the appeal is adjudicated is anyone's guess.
The EPA, which is the past has often favored big business and now is being gutted by the Trump administration, has said glyphosate is safe for folks using it in accordance with label directions. But the French-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classified it in 2015 as a "probable human carcinogen" — and California added it to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer.
More details on disease risks can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPresss book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.