Judge Could Overturn $289 Million Verdict in Monsanto Roundup Case

Judge Could Overturn $289 Million Verdict in Monsanto Roundup Case
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In August, a San Francisco jury awarded $289 million to a former school groundskeeper who alleged that exposure to Roundup caused his cancer. Now, the judge in the case is considering slashing how much the dying man actually receives. [1]

DeWayne Johnson won the landmark case against Monsanto (now Bayer), claiming that a concentrated version of Roundup herbicide caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Johnson’s lawsuit against the company was the first of more than 4,000 others waiting to go to trial. In handing down the massive award, jurors agreed with Johnson’s allegations that Monsanto failed to warn the public about Roundup’s cancer risks.

Of the $289 million, $250 million was awarded for punitive damages, while the remaining nearly-$39 million was awarded for compensatory damages, including Johnson’s lost income, and pain and suffering.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos made a tentative ruling on October 10 that could overturn the $250 in punitive damages and prompt a new trial.

In the ruling, Bolanos said Johnson “presented no clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression to support an award of punitive damages,” tentatively granting Monsanto’s request for a judgment notwithstanding verdict (JNV). This indicates that the judge plans on overturning the jury’s decision.

Jurors in the case are urging Bolanos to let the award stand. [2]

In a letter to the judge, juror Gary Kitahata wrote:

“You may not have been convinced by the evidence, but we were. I urge you to respect and honor our verdict and the 6 weeks of our lives that we dedicated to this trial.”

Another juror, Robert Howard, told the judge in a letter that the possibility that “our unanimous verdict could be summarily overturned demeans our system of justice and shakes my confidence in that system.”

Roundup contains a highly controversial weed-killing chemical called glyphosate, which has been at the center of scientific debate for years. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a wing of the World Health Organization (WHO), concluded that glyphosate probably causes cancer in humans. Monsanto fiercely fought against the classification.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on the other hand, says glyphosate is safe. However, that decision has been called into question after it was revealed that an EPA official may have helped Monsanto “kill” a study linking glyphosate to cancer.

In 2017, California added glyphosate to its list of carcinogens under the state’s Proposition 65 law. Monsanto had sued the state in an effort to keep the chemical off the list but failed in its efforts.

Bolanos gave attorneys on both sides until October 19 to present responses before she makes a final decision.


[1] CNN

[2] San Francisco Chronicle