Thursday, October 22, 2020

Bayer adjunct loses plea about ignoring safety

Top court in California rejects Monsanto appeal in case where jury ruled that herbicide caused cancer

The California Supreme Court has turned down both defendant and plaintiff appeals in a case where a jury decided the weed-killer Roundup was the reason the defendant contracted cancer.

A story by Bob Egelko in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle explains that the court denied Monsanto's appeal of a "groundbreaking verdict that found the company's widely used herbicide caused a school groundskeeper's cancer and that the company disregarded public safety in marketing its product."

Simultaneously, however, it rejected a review of the plaintiff's appeal of a lower-court ruling that reduced his damages from $78.5 million to $21.5 million.

The case had been the first in the United States to go to trial among many thousands filed against the giant agribusiness now owned by Bayer, which paid $63 billion for it in 2018. Cancer victims maintain that the problem is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and a more concentrated version called Ranger Pro.

Dewayne Johnson
The plaintiff in the groundbreaking case, Dewayne Johnson, had developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer, after using the Ranger Pro from two to three hours a day over a four-year period as a groundskeeper and pest-control manager for the Benicia School District. At the time of the 2018 trial, lesions covered his body. 

The Vallejo resident testified, Egelko's story says, that "he wore protective clothing but couldn't fully protect his face from wind-blown spray, and twice was drenched with herbicide sprays from a detached hose and a leaking container."

According to the Chronicle article, the jury determined that Monsanto "should have known the product was carcinogenic, and 'acted with malice or oppression' by failing to notify Johnson's employer."

Bayer has indicated it may consider further review of Wednesday's rulings, which most likely would mean seeking a federal court judgment. The company has previously said it would pay nearly $10 billion to upwards of 125,000 claimants, as well as setting aside another billion for potential future plaintiffs. Those settlements, announced in June, haven't yet been finalized and, in fact, have been challenged by some plaintiffs' lawyers. 

Information on other suits against manufacturers can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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