A jury on Friday opened the door to thousands of lawsuits against the chemical company Monsanto when it determined that Roundup weed killer contributed to a California man’s terminal cancer.
The jury at the Superior Court of California in San Francisco awarded Dewayne Johnson $250 million in punitive damages and $39 million in compensatory damages, CNN reported.
Monsanto officials “knew what they were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is part of Johnson’s legal team. “This should send a strong message to the boardroom of Monsanto.”
Monsanto “acted with malice, oppression or fraud and should be punished for its conduct,” Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos said in court, according to USA Today.
Dewayne Johnson claims the Roundup weed killer he used while treating school grounds in the Bay Area contributed to his terminal cancer.
Friday, a jury agreed. https://t.co/l50Mex6zrh
— WTHR.com (@WTHRcom) August 10, 2018
As of last year, at least 800 cancer patients had filed suits against Monsanto, linking their cancers to Roundup, CNN reported.
“This case is way bigger than me,” Johnson said, according to the New York Post. “I hope it gets the attention that it needs.”
Johnson was the pest control manager at a San Francisco-area school district, and as part of his job sprayed Roundup from a 50-gallon tank on a truck. He was sprayed in the face on windy days and once was soaked when a hose broke, according to Brent Wisner, one of his attorneys.
Wisner said Johnson read the label and was never warned the product could cause cancer. Johnson has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with has lesions over much of his body.
Johnson was diagnosed in 2014. The lawsuit was filed in 2016, and fast-tracked under a California law that gives individuals facing death priority. Johnson’s doctors have said he is not likely to live beyond 2020, The New York Times reported.
“The simple fact is he is going to die. It’s just a matter of time,” Wisner said last month.
Monsanto has said there is no proven link between between glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, and cancer. It plans to appeal the verdict.
“We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family,” said Monsanto spokesman Scott Partridge. “We will appeal this decision and continue to 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.”
“More than 800 scientific studies, the U.S. EPA, the National Institutes of Health and regulators around the world have concluded that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer,” he said.
However, Wisner said that during the trial, jurors were shown internal Monsanto documents “proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate and specifically Roundup could cause cancer.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has ruled Roundup is safe for use when the directions are followed. The France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, labels glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.” California lists it as a chemical known to cause cancer.
“Monsanto made Roundup the oxycontin of pesticides and now the addiction and damage they caused have come home to roost,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. “This won’t cure Dewayne Lee Johnson’s cancer, but it will send a strong message to a renegade company.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.