Jurors who recently awarded $289 million to the first plaintiff to take a Monsanto Roundup lawsuit to trial in the United States are urging a California judge to uphold their unanimous, landmark verdict.
Plaintiff Dwayne Johnson, 46, a former California groundskeeper, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014, following repeated exposure to Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides marketed by Monsanto. He accused the agribusiness of actively concealing evidence of glyphosate’s cancer-causing potential in order to protect sales of its key product.
In August, a San Francisco Superior Court jury unanimously awarded Johnson and his family $39 million in compensatory damages.
The final judgement also included $250 million in punitive damages, reflecting the jury’s finding that Monsanto had acted with malice or oppression by failing to warn Johnson’s employer that exposure to glyphosate might increase an individual’s risk for cancer.
Bayer, which recently acquired Monsanto, is appealing the verdict.
Last week, the trial judge indicated that she might toss the jury’s punitive damage award and order a new trial on that issue. She also suggested that she was open to reducing compensatory damages.
Two jurors have since written to the judge, pleading that she keep their verdict intact.
“You may not have been convinced by the evidence but we were,” juror Gary Kitahata wrote in a letter shared with the San Francisco Chronicle. “I urge you to respect and honor our verdict and the six weeks of our lives that we dedicated to this trial.”
A letter written by Robert Howard insisted that the jury had paid “studious attention” to the evidence presented during trial and warned that any decision to overturn its unanimous verdict “demeans our system of justice and shakes my confidence in that system.”
Howard also told the Chronicle that two other jurors had also written the judge in support of the verdict.
Monsanto’s Roundup is the most popular weed killer in the world.
However, in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen, after its independent review suggested exposure might be linked to a higher risk of cancer, especially in regards to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Monsanto categorically denies any suggestion that Roundup exposure could result in cancer, and has waged an aggressive campaign to discredit the IARC review.
In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared glyphosate safe.
However, Johnson and thousands of other Roundup lawsuit plaintiffs have cited internal company emails and other documents to prove that Monsanto exerted undue influence on studies and reviews that purported to contradict the IARC findings.