Agrochemical company Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289 million to school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who said the Bayer subsidiary’s chemical products gave him cancer. On Friday, a California jury ruled that the company acted with knowledge that risks of cancer were possible when allowing their weedkillers, such as Roundup, to remain on the market with no hazard warnings. The $289 million sum consists of $39 million in compensatory damages with the remaining $250 million accorded for punitive damages.
The three-day trial in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco concluded with the determination that Monsanto did not warn consumers like Johnson of the dangers associated to glyphosate exposure. The 46-year-old’s case was filed in 2016, but it was rushed to trial as a result of the acuteness of his cancer. Doctors predicted that Johnson, a pest control manager for a California county school system, would not live past 2020 because of the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma he developed while being on the job.
Johnson regularly used popular Monsanto products Roundup and Ranger Pro, both herbicides containing glyphosate, a chemical that poses cancer risks to humans. Monsanto plans to appeal the verdict and cited 800 scientific studies and reviews in its support of the weedkillers. The company said, “Glyphosate does not cause cancer and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer.” Monsanto was recently acquired for $62.5 billion by the German conglomerate Bayer, which is now faced with more than 5,000 lawsuits across the U.S. that resemble Mr. Johnson’s case.
Jurors on the trial were privy to never-before-seen internal company documents “proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate, and specifically Roundup, could cause cancer,” Brent Wisner, Johnson’s lawyer, revealed in a statement. Wisner’s demand to the company was simple — “Put consumer safety first over profits.”