Patient Awarded $289 Million in Landmark Monsanto-Associated Cancer Case

Brielle Urciuoli

Dewayne Johnson, a patient with cancer who claimed that Monsanto’s Roundup product was at the root of his non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis in 2014, was awarded $289 million by a jury, as reported by the Associated Press.

Johnson is the first to take the agricultural giant to court and is paving the way for hundreds of others who also believe that their cancers are linked to the popular herbicide. His attorneys sought and won $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million of the $373 million they wanted in punitive damages.

Johnson is a 46-year-old California resident with late-stage lymphoma. In fact, since his cancer is so advanced, he was able to have his hearing expedited when court filings indicated that he was dying. For years, he worked closely with Roundup (and Ranger Pro, a pest manager) in his career as a school groundskeeper in the San Francisco Bay area.

He would use a 50-gallon tank to spray the substances – that the wind would often blow in to his face and body. One time, thanks to a broken hose, Johnson became completely soaked in Roundup, according to the Associate Press.

Now, with the help of his legal team, Johnson convinced the state Superior Court that the product should come with a warning label.

“A unanimous jury in San Francisco has told Monsanto: ’Enough. You did something wrong and now you have to pay,’” Brent Wisner, Johnson’s lead trial lawyer, said in a statement. “There’s 4,000 other cases filed around the United States and there are a countless thousand other people out there who are suffering from cancer because Monsanto didn’t give them a choice ... We now have a way forward.”

However, the research is still shaky linking glyphosate – the key ingredient in Roundup – and cancer. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) deemed glyphosate a Group 2A carcinogen, meaning it is a “probable carcinogen” to humans. 

But a “probable” carcinogen is not enough to convince Monsanto that their product is truly dangerous, so the company plans on appealing the decision. In an email to media representatives on Friday night, Scott Partridge, a vice president of Monsanto said:

“We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family. Today’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews – and conclusions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world – support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer. We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others.”
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