Before the weekend, a San Francisco jury sided with a school groundskeeper who claims that a weed killer made by Monsanto is the likely reason he is dying of cancer. On Friday, the jury decided that plaintiff Dewayne Johnson is owed nearly $290 million in damages. This includes $250 million in punitive damages and another $33 million in compensatory damages.
This is actually the first case against the agribusiness giant to go to trial in a bigger string of other legal complaints which all allege that the glyphosate-based herbicide known as “Roundup” causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Johnson reports that he sprayed Roundup and Ranger Pro (another Monsanto product) as a regular part of his daily job: pest control manager for a San Francisco, CA school district. Johnson’s statement also describes how he originally developed a bad rash—followed by a lymphoma diagnosis—in 2014, at the age of 42. He is now 46.
After three days of deliberation, the jury from the San Francisco Superior Court of California found that Monsanto did not warn Johnson (and other consumers) regarding the potential health risks associated with using their weed-killers.
Plaintiff counsel Robert F. Kennedy, Jr commented, “The jury found Monsanto acted with malice and oppression because they knew that there were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life.” He goes on to say, “This should send a strong message to the boardroom Monsanto.”
Of course, Monsanto adamantly denies the claims that there is a link between glyphosate and cancer. In defense, they point to several studies that, they say, collectively find Roundup’s active ingredient to be safe.
According to Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge, in a statement in response to the verdict, “We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family [but there are] 800 studies and reviews [which] support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer.”
Now, it is important to note that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen three years ago.
Still, University of Cambridge professor of cancer epidemiology Paul Pharoah comments, “From a purely scientific point of view I do not think that the judgment makes sense. The epidemiological evidence that glycophosphates are associated with an increased risk of lymphoma is very weak.”
As such, Monsanto says they plan to appeal this ruling.