Monsanto ordered to pay $289 million as jury rules Roundup caused DeWayne Johnson’s cancer

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson filed a lawsuit against Monsanto in 2016, alleging that exposure to the Roundup herbicide he sprayed while working as a school groundskeeper caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

During the trial, Mr Johnson testified “I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm.”

The jury in San Francisco found in favor of Lee Johnson on all questions put to it by the judge. The jury awarded $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages, so a total of $289 million.

The unanimity of the jury and the size of the punitive award make this an historic turning point for pesticide companies that think they can control the science surrounding the impact of their products.

French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said, ““This is the end of arrogance for Bayer and Monsanto. But it [this verdict] can never repair what this American gardener has irreversibly suffered… It really is the weak fighting against the strong.”

One case decided – thousands more pending

Louise Luttikholt, Executive Director of IFOAM – Organics International, says, “We have long called for governments to change their agricultural policies to no longer favor chemical agriculture and the use of pesticides through perverse incentives. Instead, we call upon governments to increase investments in research looking into how agriculture can be pushed to be more sustainable.

"If the polluter pays principle were applied beforehand, these kinds of dangerous substances would not have come in our common environment in the first place. We welcome this decision by the jury in San Francisco as at least, through this verdict, the polluter pays eventually. However, we are extremely sorry for Mr. Johnson and his family for their suffering.

In response to the ruling, Bayer shares dropped 11%, due to fears that the German pesticide maker may face more costly lawsuits due to its takeover of Monsanto earlier this year.

Lee Johnson is one of more than 4,000 people from across the country to file suit against Monsanto in state and federal courts based on allegations linking Roundup to cancer. After this ruling, we can assume that these other cases will move forward with renewed vigor.

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