On Friday, August 10th, a San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto pay DeWayne Johnson $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages after ruling that Monsanto’s popular herbicide, Roundup, contributed to Johnson’s development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Here, the product liability and litigation attorneys at The Law Offices of Peter Angelos discuss the verdict.
Monsanto Found Liable for Johnson’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
DeWayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company was the first case of its kind to go to trial. In this case, Mr. Johnson alleged, and the jury found, that Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup, contained ingredients linked to the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. Johnson, a former groundskeeper, claimed to have applied 20-30 Roundup treatments per year throughout his three years working in this position. He also claimed to have had two accidents in which he was soaked with the herbicide. In 2014, Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that begins in the lymphatic system and causes the body to produce an abnormal number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Johnson’s case was expedited due to the terminal nature of his cancer, as terminally ill plaintiffs in California are eligible for an expedited trial.
Johnson’s attorneys argued that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is carcinogenic and that Monsanto purposely failed to warn consumers of the product’s health risks. After three days of deliberations, the jury sided with Johnson on both issues, and ordered Monsanto to pay $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. According to Monsanto spokesman, Scott Partridge, the company will appeal the Johnson verdict and continue to “vigorously defend” Roundup.
Of the verdict, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of Johnson’s attorneys, said, “The jury found Monsanto acted with malice and oppression because they knew what they were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life.”
Plaintiff Alleged that Health Risks of Glyphosate were Hidden from the Public by Monsanto
Glyphosate is a chemical compound used in herbicides to control the growth of undesirable vegetation. A review of multiple studies has shown that individuals who regularly use herbicides containing glyphosate were at increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other forms of cancer. Additionally, research has shown that herbicide formulations containing glyphosate, such as Roundup, are more hazardous to human health than exposure to glyphosate alone due to a synergistic effect of glyphosate and other ingredients contained within herbicides. Glyphosate was classified as a probable human carcinogen in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
According to testimony, Johnson claimed he contacted Monsanto after an accident that caused Roundup to soak his entire body, causing a rash. He inquired about the health risks of Roundup, but the company never expressed that any of the ingredients in Roundup had been associated with cancer.
Additionally, Michael Miller, one of Johnson’s attorney, asserted during the trial that Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies” that revealed the danger of Roundup and other glyphosate-containing products and led a “prolonged campaign of misinformation” in order to convince governmental agencies, farmers and consumers that their herbicides were safe.
Brent Wisner, another one of Johnson’s attorneys, said in a statement after the verdict was made, “We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that…Roundup could cause cancer.”
Additional Lawsuits are Pending Against Monsanto
More than 400 lawsuits are currently pending against Monsanto in federal court in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, as well as multiple suits in St. Louis, Missouri, where Monsanto’s headquarters are located. The first case to be heard in Missouri is set to take place in October.
There is a large and growing body of evidence that asserts glyphosate, the active ingredient found in many herbicides, including Roundup, may be carcinogenic to humans. Nearly 1.5 billion pounds of Roundup is used each year in 160 countries, potentially putting millions of users at risk. If you or a loved one has been employed in an industry where Roundup or other glyphosate-containing herbicides are commonly used and have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other serious health concerns, contact The Law Offices of Peter Angelos today for a no-charge consultation.