Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289 million to a former groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following exposure to the company’s popular Roundup weed killer.
The trial was the first in a nationwide litigation that currently includes more than 4,000 similar Roundup lawsuits, though legal experts predict that news of the landmark verdict could encourage hundreds of potential plaintiffs to begin filing their own claims.
Roundup, the most popular weed killer in the world, contains glyphosate, a substance deemed “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s international Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015.
Plaintiff Dwayne Johnson, a 46-year-old father of 2 from the San Francisco Bay Area, was exposed to Roundup 20 to 30 times per year during his career as a school district groundskeeper.
In 2014, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His cancer is now considered terminal and his doctors have given Johnson approximately 6 months to live.
Johnson filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court in 2014, alleging that Monsanto failed to warn the public of the dangers associated with Roundup exposure.
His lawsuit was expedited for trial due to his terminal cancer.
During the trial, Johnson’s attorneys presented evidence which they said showed Monsanto was aware that glyphosate was dangerous as early as 1983. Other emails presented to the jury suggested that the company had insinuated itself into the decision-making process at the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s, which only last year declared glyphosate harmless to humans.
Jurors returned a unanimous verdict in Johnson’s favor on August 10th, finding that Monsanto liable for his illness. The panel also determined that the company had acted “with malice or oppression” when it sold Roundup to his former employer, Benicia Unified School District, without disclosing the product’s potentially life-threatening side effects.
Johnson was awarded $2.3 million in damages for his past and future economic losses and $37 million for pain and emotional distress. He was also awarded $250 million in punitive damages for Monsanto’s oppressive and malicious conduct.
“Mr. Johnson’s brave decision to spend his dying days fighting Monsanto to prove the dangers of Roundup is part of a global awakening to the long-term health and environmental costs of our careless addiction to pesticides, Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Guardian.
Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer AG in 2016, denies that Roundup has any link to cancer and has promised to appeal the verdict.