Aug 112018


UPDATE:  Nov. 1/18  The groundskeeper who won a massive civil suit against Bayer’s Monsanto claiming that the weedkiller Roundup caused his cancer has agreed to accept $78 million, after a judge substantially reduced the jury’s original $289 million award.

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Court finds in favor of Dewayne Johnson, first person to take Roundup maker to trial

Dewayne Johnson listens during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco last month.

DeWayne Johnson listens during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco last month. Photograph: Reuters


Monsanto suffered a major blow with a jury ruling that the company was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer, awarding him $289m in damages.

Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a huge victory in the landmark case on Friday, with the jury determining that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure. The jury further found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”.

Johnson’s lawyers argued over the course of a month-long trial in San Francisco that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson was the first person to take the agrochemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the brand Roundup causes cancer.

In the extraordinary verdict, which Monsanto said it intends to appeal, the jury ruled that the company was responsible for “negligent failure” and knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”.

“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,” Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement. The verdict, he added, sent a “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits”.

Speaking in San Francisco on Friday, Johnson said that the jury’s verdict is far bigger than his lawsuit. He said he hopes the case bolsters the thousands of similar lawsuits pending against the company and brings national attention to the issue.

Johnson’s case was particularly significant because a judge allowed his team to present scientific arguments. The dispute centered on glyphosate, which is the world’s most widely used herbicide. The verdict came a month after a federal judge ruled that cancer survivors or relatives of the deceased could bring similar claims forward in another trial.

During the lengthy trial, the plaintiff’s attorneys brought forward internal emails from Monsanto executives that they said demonstrated how the corporation repeatedly ignored experts’ warnings, sought favorable scientific analyses and helped to “ghostwrite” research that encouraged continued usage.

Monsanto has long argued that Roundup is safe and not linked to cancer and presented studies during trial that countered the research and testimony submitted by Johnson’s team. The herbicide is registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops, but in 2015, the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, triggering a wave of legal and legislative challenges.

After the trial, Scott Partridge, the vice-president of Monsanto, rejected any link between glyphosate and cancer, insisting the “verdict doesn’t change the four-plus decades of safe use and science behind the product”.

Partridge said the IARC, whose evidence was key in persuading the jury of the link between glyphosate and cancer, “has been demonstrated as having been corrupted”, asserting the organisation does “no testing, they do no analysis, they have no laboratories, they simply render an opinion”.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today show on Saturday, Partridge expressed sympathy for Johnson but continued to dispute the evidence used in the trial.

He said the internal company emails, which were used by Johnson’s attorney as evidence the agrochemical firm had rejected critical research and expert warnings about the weedkiller, had been “taken completely out of context”.

Monsanto has long argued that Roundup is safe and not linked to cancer.

Monsanto has long argued that Roundup is safe and not linked to cancer. Photograph: Jeff

Johnson, 46, is a father of three who worked as a groundskeeper and pest manager for the school district in Benicia, a suburb just north of San Francisco. That position began in 2012, and he testified that it involved him spraying herbicide to control weeds on school grounds, sometimes for several hours a day.

He argued that his exposure to the chemicals caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cell cancer, and when he took the stand, he discussed his pain and suffering as skin lesions took over his body.

“I’ve been going through a lot of pain,” Johnson, who goes by the name Lee, testified weeks earlier. “It really takes everything out of you … I’m not getting any better.”

He also testified that Monsanto should not have let him use the herbicide near schoolchildren, saying: “I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm.”

Johnson may have just months to live, according to his doctors. His wife testified that she has had to work two jobs, sometimes with 14-hour days, to help pay for the medical bills.

The financial award included past and future economic losses and punitive damages.

Another Roundup cancer trial is scheduled to begin in the fall in St Louis, Missouri. According to Johnson’s lawyers, Monsanto is facing more than 4,000 similar cases across the US.


The Associated Press contributed to this report

  2 Responses to “2018-08-11 Monsanto ordered to pay $289m (update $78m) as jury rules weedkiller caused man’s cancer, The Guardian”

  1. Thank you, thank you for this. This company is one of the most evil on earth, since its beginning. I hope that from this, organics will get a big boost. The aim of the company is not to sell roundup, but to control the food supply. This I do not want. Everyone should go plant a garden, without GM seeds.

  2. RECEIVED BY EMAIL, rolled into one:


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    I didn’t know that RFK Jr was a member of the defence team, arguing the case.

    Celebrate, celebrate!
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    Thanks Sandra I posted this on FB. I did some follow up as well, reading Online Spiegel International about the details of the evidence that Monsanto covered up. Quite abominable.

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    Thanks, Sandra–this is the best news I’ve heard in ages!!
    I hope it heralds a broad and sweeping sea change in the courts of law…


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    Hi Sandra,

    I heard this story on the news this morning, and was thinking about you.

    I’m not surprised by the court’s findings about the links between glyphosate and cancer.

    I hope this will lead to legislated changes in the requirements for dissemination of information warning farmers and gardeners about health hazards associated with its use.

    A big win for the good guys!

    Have a great week-end!


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    Yes, this was so good to see! D.

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    thanks – great verdict!

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    Yes great news. Joseph

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    Hope it sticks. Regardless bad publicity

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    I saw this and immediately checked it out on Snopes Sandra! HaHa, Turns out it’s legit. WOW

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    Ya I saw that on a news website. I would like to hear how the plaintiff and monsanto approached this case from both sides. Interesting from a medical perspective

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    I am so pleased with this verdict. This is what is extensively used in Alberta for wheat production.
    I mill my own wheat, if you drop by I’ll give you some to try.
    Memories…in my first school principalship in Winlaw, the parents removed all their kids from school in protest because CPR was spraying roundup on the tracks near the school.
    Thanks for .keeping me informed.

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    Thank you Sandra! 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

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    Thanks Sandra
    Meg sent it too YAY!!! heard it on the radio too so its really out there

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    Good news, finally.

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    Yes. very interesting, It was a jury trial.
    Monsanto is going to appeal and It may not stand because of Monsanto’s role in funding scientists and research institutions, sometimes as a silent partner. too.

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    Hot Damn!!!

    How many cases are needed, at $289 MILLION each, to get rid of this outfit – aka BAYER???

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    In one report it said there are 5,000 lawsuits against Monsanto underway and an estimated potential $5 billion in settlements, if this first one is any indication.

    Bayer stock price fell, so maybe more people than I thought know that Bayer purchased Monsanto. There are anti-trust lawsuits against the purchase.

    Why would the Executives at Bayer think it was a good idea to buy Monsanto? Do they think that people are so dumb, that with Monsanto down, Bayer would not be next on the list – – ESPECIALLY when they BOUGHT Monsanto? It just seems such a stupid thing to do? What am I missing?

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    Hi Sandra, you have more balls than a million mini men. Great courage, very brave. I know you step out on the limb very far, as all of us in this walk do and of course I like to know. This is so huge. I fight in a different ring than you but the finish line is the same and we will win.

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    Unfortunately and not surprisingly they are planning to appeal:((

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