The California Supreme Court has refused to hear a legal challenge to a state agency decision designating glyphosate – the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer — a potential cancer-causing chemical.
The Court’s refusal to take the case came on August 15th, just days after a California jury awarded $289 million to a former groundskeeper who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following years of Roundup exposure
The case was the first Roundup lawsuit to go to trial in a nationwide litigation that includes more than 8,000 claims, all of which accuse Monsanto of concealing the alleged link between its glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer.
Glyphosate was declared a possible human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015.
In July 2017, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added glyphosate to the state’s Prop 65 list. The inclusion requires Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate-based herbicides to add warnings to their product labels indicating that they could be a cancer-causing agent.
Monsanto and other industry groups were able to persuade a California judge to issue a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking the label requirements. In April, however, the First Court of Appeals lifted the injunction after determining that the state was within its rights to rely on IARCs findings regarding glyphosate and cancer.
The California Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a challenge to the appellate decision means that the labels on all glyphosate herbicides sold in California – including Roundup – will come with a cancer warning.
Just 5 days earlier, a San Francisco Superior Court jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to Dwayne Johnson, a former school district groundskeeper suffering from terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
According to his Roundup lawsuit, Johnson was exposed to glyphosate 20-30 times per year in the course of his career. He alleges his terminal cancer was the result of that exposure.
At trial, Johnson’s lawyers presented internal company documents as proof that Monsanto was aware of glyphosate’s purported dangers as early as 1983. Company emails entered into evidence also suggested that Monsanto had insinuated itself into the decision-making process at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while the weed killer was under review. The review was completed last year, when the EPA declared glyphosate safe.
The unanimous jury awarded Johnson and his family $289 million. The judgment included $250 million in punitive damages for what the jury considered oppressive and malicious conduct on the part of Monsanto.