Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Business | By Eloise Houston

Monsanto ordered to pay $289m damages in Roundup cancer trial

Monsanto ordered to pay $289m damages in Roundup cancer trial

A San Francisco jury awarded $289m (£226m) to former school groundsman Dewayne Johnson who claimed Monsanto's popular Roundup weed killer contributed to his terminal cancer.

His was the first case filed by a cancer patient against the agribusiness giant to reach trial.

This case and the verdict specifically concern the 46-year-old father who developed a severe and fatal form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma while working as a school groundskeeper, repeatedly spraying large quantities of Monsanto's Roundup and other glyphosate herbicide brands.

The lawsuit is the first to accuse the product of causing cancer but is a harbinger of a looming wave of similar legal challenges: observers say a Monsanto defeat likely opens the door to hundreds of other claims against the company, which was recently acquired by Germany's Bayer. But with each new study showing harm, Monsanto worked not to warn users or redesign its products, but to create its own science to show they were safe.

Partridge said outside the courthouse that Monsanto had no intention of settling the slew of similar cases in the legal queue, saying if anything the verdict would prompt the company to work harder to demonstrate the weed killer is safe.

"We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family", Monsanto spokesman Scott Partridge said.

"All the efforts by Monsanto to put their finger in the dyke and hold back the science; the science is now too persuasive", Kennedy said, pointing to "cascading" scientific evidence about the health dangers of Roundup.

Its toxicity is widely regarded to be low in the concentrations used by farmers, although the UN International Agency for Research on Cancer has called it "probably carcinogenic".

"I want to thank everybody on the jury..."

FILE - In this July, 9, 2018, file photo, plaintiff DeWayne Johnson looks up during a brief break as the Monsanto trial in San Francisco.

Johnson was awarded a total of about $39 million in past and future losses, both economic and noneconomic, but it was the $250 million in punitive damages that seemed to take the courtroom's breath away, as a sigh was heard on a video recording when Bolanos made the announcement.

But Johnson's lawyer Brent Wisner said the verdict "shows the evidence is overwhelming" that the product poses danger.

"The Johnson v Monsanto verdict is a win for all of humanity and all life on earth", said Zen Honeycutt, founding executive director of non-profit group Moms Across America.

At one point, when a hose broke, the weed killer covered his entire body.

Johnson read the label and even contacted the company after developing a rash but was never warned it could cause cancer, Wisner said.

"The simple fact is he is going to die".

California has also added glyphosate to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer. "It's just a matter of time", Wisner told the jury in his opening statement last month.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Roundup's active ingredient is safe for people when used in accordance with label directions.

It came after the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, said in 2015 that glyphosate was a "probable human carcinogen".

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