Monsanto Ordered To Pay $289 million In Roundup Cancer Case
A San Francisco jury has ordered agribusiness giant Monsanto to pay $289 million in a case claiming that its popular Roundup weed killer causes cancer. School groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was awarded $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages. Monsanto, a unit of Bayer AG, faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States.
The lawsuit brought by Johnson was the first of those thousands to go to trial. His trial was expedited because court filings indicated that Johnson was dying. Johnson’s doctors said he is unlikely to live past 2020.
Johnson, 46, worked as a pest control manager for a California county school system. In the course of his job, he applied the weed killers Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto herbicide, up to 30 times per year, spraying them from a 50-gallon tank attached to a truck. As he applied the chemicals, they would spray back on him and a hose break once covered his entire body with the herbicide.
Johnson claimed he contacted the company after developing a rash but was never warned it could cause cancer. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, in 2014. Johnson’s lawyers argued that his heavy contact with the herbicides contributed to the development of the cancer.
Both of those weed killers have glyphosate as the active ingredient. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it is safe for people when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, but the state of California and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have classified it as a “probable human carcinogen”. Monsanto spokesman Scott Partridge said scientific studies, as well as two government agencies, have concluded that Roundup does not cause cancer.
The jury at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California disagreed and said that Monsanto should have provided a label warning of the potential health hazard. Partridge said the company will appeal the decision.