Former Groundskeeper Will Accept $78 Million Award in Roundup Trial

Former Groundskeeper Will Accept $78 Million Award in Roundup Trial
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The former school groundskeeper who alleged at trial that the popular herbicide Roundup caused his cancer will accept a reduced award of $78 million, instead of the $289 million award a jury originally decided on.

In August, a San Francisco Superior Court jury awarded Dewayne Johnson $289 million – $250 million in punitive damages and $40 million in compensatory damages – after concluding that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, caused his terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In October, Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos issued a tentative ruling granting Monsanto’s (now Bayer) request for a judgment notwithstanding verdict (JNOV), saying that Johnson “presented no clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression to support an award of punitive damages.”

Some jurors were so infuriated by the JNOV that they wrote the judge a letter, pleading with her not to overturn the verdict.

Bolanos ultimately reversed her tentative ruling, but she reduced the amount of money that Johnson will receive from $289 million to about $78 million.

Johnson could have rejected the $78 million, but it would have meant going through a new trial.

On November 2, Johnson’s attorneys said that he “will accept the reduction of punitive damages to the amount of $39,253,209.35” in order “to avoid the further burden of a new trial or appeal.”

Monsanto is still expected to appeal the judge’s punitive damages award, in which case Johnson will continue to fight, his attorneys said.

Johnson worked as a groundskeeper and pest-control manager for a Northern California school district who developed a rash after being twice exposed to high levels of Roundup. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2014. [2]

His attorney disagreed with the reduced award, but said that Johnson decided to accept the smaller amount in the hopes of achieving “a final resolution within his lifetime.”

Bayer Crop Science spokesperson Charla Lord said in a statement:

“The Court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal.

There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous registration studies required by EPA, European and other regulators, that confirms that these products are safe when used as directed.”

In 2015, documents dating back to 1985 were discovered showing that the EPA knew glyphosate could cause cancer. Then, last year, it came to light that an EPA official whose job it was to evaluate the cancer risk associated with glyphosate may have worked with Monsanto to kill the release of a study showing that glyphosate causes cancer.

Bayer is facing about 8,000 more glyphosate-cancer lawsuits.


[1] CNN

[2] NPR