Monsanto has promised to appeal a $289 million verdict recently awarded to a former groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following repeated exposure to Roundup, the company’s popular glyphosate-based weed killer.
But according to some legal experts, Monsanto may have a hard time convincing California courts to reverse the landmark verdict.
Monsanto’s Roundup is the most popular weed killer in the world.
But in 2015, the World Health Agency’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate – it’s active ingredient — a “probable human carcinogen,” especially in relation to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes, helping to spark the current wave of litigation.
According to his Roundup lawsuit, Dwayne Johnson, 46, used Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killers roughly 20 to 30 times per year during his tenure as a former school district groundskeeper.
The herbicide would often coat his face, and in two instances, product spilled and drenched Johnson’s body.
The father of two young boys blames glyphosate exposure for his 2014 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis and accused Monsanto of failing to warn the public about the risks associated with Roundup and similar weed killers.
On August 10th, a unanimous San Francisco Superior Court jury ruled in Johnson’s favor, awarding him $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The case was the first Roundup lawsuit to go to trial in a nationwide litigation that includes around 8,000 similar claims. If other juries reach the same conclusions, Bayer AG – which acquired Monsanto last summer – could face liability as high as $5 billion, according to some analysts.
Given the stakes, it’s easy to see why Monsanto will be appealing the Roundup verdict.
Per statements made by Monsanto’s attorneys, that appeal will be based on Johnson’s supposed use of “junk science” that the defense claims was inadmissible, as well as certain statements made by his lawyers that purportedly “inflamed” the jury to punish the company.
Some legal experts who spoke with Reuters, however, doubt that either of those arguments will succeed, noting that the trial judge carefully considered Johnson’s scientific evidence when he found it admissible.
“This is one of those difficult questions at the margins of science and the judge found the evidence simply wasn’t inadmissible,” said Lars Noah, a law professor at the University of Florida.
And according to Harvard Law School professor, David Rosenberg, editorializing by attorneys during trial has to be especially egregious before most judges will even consider tossing a verdict.
“Such remarks are part of the game during trials and I can’t see a single reason why Monsanto would think an appeal would be helpful on those grounds.”