A former school groundskeeper who sued Monsanto after one of their products left him terminally ill with cancer was awarded $289 million by a jury. The result will likely aid thousands of pending cases for people who are claiming that Monsanto's Roundup weed-killer caused them serious illness or injury.
Speaking at a news conference, Dewayne Johnson said the following about the compensation he received, “I'm glad to be here to be able to help in a cause that's way bigger than me.”
Johnson’s case claimed that heavy contact with the herbicide caused him to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Superior Court jury agreed with his case and said that Monsanto should have put a warning label on the hazardous product.
The decision marks the first time a case filed by a cancer patient against Monsanto made it all the way to trial. The case was expedited because court filings revealed that Johnson was dying from his illness. The victory can set a major precedent for other similar cases.
Speaking about the result, Johnson's attorney said, “A unanimous jury in San Francisco has told Monsanto: 'Enough. You did something wrong and now you have to pay.’ There are 4,000 other cases filed around the United States and there are 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."
Despite the ruling, Monsanto continues to deny that there is a link between glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup, and cancer. The company says hundreds of studies support its stance that glyphosate is safe for consumers.
A spokesperson for Monsanto said the company will appeal the decision and also added that two government agencies have concluded that Roundup does not cause cancer. "We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family. 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," said the spokesperson.
During his time as a pest control manager at a San Francisco Bay Area school district, Johnson used Roundup and a similar product, Ranger Pro, to perform his job duties. According to Johnson’s attorney, he sprayed large quantities of the weed killer from a 50-gallon tank attached to a truck. During gusty winds, the product would cover Johnson’s face. One time a hose broke, which resulted in the product soaking Johnson’s body.
Johnson read the directions on the label and also contacted Monsanto after he developed a rash. However, the company never warned that the product could cause cancer. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2014.
Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that the active ingredient in Roundup is safe if used in accordance with the directions, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has categorized the product as a “probable human carcinogen" since 2015. The state of California also added glyphosate to its list of chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
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