A terminally ill California man who claims routine exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro weed killers caused his cancer was awarded $289 million Friday, Aug. 10.
A jury at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California deliberated for three days before finding that Monsanto had failed to warn Mr. Johnson and other consumers that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide products, can cause cancer.
Mr. Johnson, a 46-year-old father of two, worked as a school groundskeeper in the San Francisco Bay Area. He says he sprayed the Monsanto chemicals about 30 times per year and went through hundreds of gallons of it during the course of his four-year employment as a groundskeeper, according to his lawsuit.
In one incident, Mr. Johnson was sprayed from head to toe with Ranger Pro when the hose he was using to treat weeds malfunctioned. His skin broke out in a rash and blistering lesions, prompting him to call the company. However, Monsanto never warned him that the product is carcinogenic.
Mr. Johnson is one of several plaintiffs suing Monsanto, alleging the glyphosate in its products caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. Monsanto adamantly disputes the evidence linking glyphosate to cancer, even dismissing findings by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that the chemical may promote cancer.
Mr. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014 at the age of 42 – two years after the hose malfunction doused him with Ranger Pro. Now 80 percent of Mr. Johnson’s body is covered in cancerous lesions.
Jurors agreed that Monsanto’s glyphosate products contributed to Mr. Johnson’s cancer and that the agrochemical corporation should have included a warning to consumers on the labeling about the health hazards.
Jurors awarded Mr. Johnson $39 million in compensatory damages – the full amount he sought – and $250 million in punitive damages.
“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,” Mr. Johnson’s lawyer said in a statement, according to The Guardian.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a member of Mr. Johnson’s legal team, said the verdict “should send a strong message to the boardroom of Monsanto.”
“This 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,” Mr. Kennedy said.
After the verdict, Monsanto lawyers said the company stood by the safety of Roundup and Ranger Pro and the jury’s decision would be appealed.