A San Francisco jury ruled that the most popular weed killer in the world, Roundup, caused a former schoolteacher, husband, and father of two to become terminally ill with cancer.
Dewayne Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial, and was expedited, because doctor’s had said he wasn’t expected to live long. In California, plaintiffs near death can be granted a speedy trial. His victory is likely to set a precedent for thousands of other cases who claim the herbicide made by Monsanto causes a deadly, painful form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The jury deliberated the case for three days at the San Francisco Superior Court before choosing to award Johnson $250 million in punitive damages and $39 million in compensatory damages. Johnson’s lawyer says he will live the rest of his life in “extreme comfort”, but this won’t change the fact that he will almost certainly lose his life, and very soon, leaving his two sons and wife.
Monsanto issued a statement after the verdict was read saying that it still stood by the studie which suggest Roundup does not cause cancer. They will appeal the decision and continue to defend their product which has been used for 40 years by farmers and others. During the appeal, Dawayne Johnson will receive interest on the damages which equates to about $25 million per year.
Johnson worked as a groundskeeper for a school district near San Francisco. He applied the weedkiller 20-30 times per year, and had at least two accidents which left him soaked with the product. In 2014, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Nearly 80% of Johnson’s body is covered in in lesions. On bad days he is so weak that he is unable to speak. During the trial Johnson testified that the worst part of his situation was telling his sons he had cancer and was going to die. Johnson’s wife has been working 2, 40 hour work week jobs to support her family. Now she’ll be able to spend time with her husband.
The Risks of Roundup
During the trial, the biggest question jurors had to consider was whether or not Roundup can cause cancer, and if so, did Monsanto fail to warn their customer’s about the risk? The jury sided with Johnson on both of these questions. In 2015, the WHO’s agency for Research on Cancer spoke out about Roundup’s primary ingredient, glyphosate, and said it is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The report continued to state that there was limited evidence to suggest carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Monsanto maintains there is no risk to using Roundup, and this can be backed up by a number of at least 800 studies. The company said “We all have sympathy for Mr. Johnson, It’s natural he’s looking for answers. Glyphosate is not the answer.”
Johnson’s lawyer agreed that glyphosate was not the single problem, but rather that Roundup was. He explained that the cancer was a result of an interaction between glyphosate and the other ingredients in Roundup making the product much more carcinogenic. The lawyer went on to say that this verdict should be a “wake up call to the EPA”. Meanwhile, a number of cancer patients are alleging a cover up in that the EPA have tried to help Monsanto.
Thousands More Claims are Filed
Just before the jury made their decision to award Johnson $289 million, there were another 4,000 cases awaiting trial in different state courts. A further 400 cases were filed in multidistrict litigation at the federal level. By August, 21 this number doubled with at least 8,000 cases being filed against Bayer, the new owner of Monsanto. Shares are also down 10 percent. Johnson’s lawyer says the verdict is historic and a “a big victory for human health worldwide.” No dates have been set for any further Monsanto trials.