A California judge pared down a $289 million judgment against Bayer’s Monsanto in a landmark case brought by a terminally ill man allegedly sickened by Roundup herbicide, but upheld the jury’s findings that the agrochemical giant acted with malice.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos said that the $250 million in punitive damages the jury ordered Monsanto to pay plaintiff Dewayne Johnson must be brought in line with the $39.25 million in compensatory damages the jurors thought was suitable.
The judge’s 11-page ruling, released Oct. 22, stated that “regardless of the level of reprehensibility of Monsanto’s conduct, the constitutionally required ratio is one to one” between the two types of damages, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto in June, had asked Judge Bolanos to overturn the decision or issue a new trial, claiming that lawyers for the plaintiffs skewed jurors’ opinions with inflammatory statements.
On Aug. 10, the San Francisco Superior Court jury found that Monsanto was liable for Mr. Johnson’s terminal cancer. The 46-year-old father of two claimed that regular exposures to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and Ranger Pro herbicides, on the job as a groundskeeper caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The landmark verdict was welcomed by thousands of people who claim exposure to Monsanto’s chemicals caused their life-threatening illnesses, as well as environmental scientists, farmers, and consumer safety groups that maintain Monsanto poses a colossal threat to human and environmental health.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Bayer shares dropped 6.7 percent after news broke that the judge upheld the verdict but reduced the award. Investors and analysts see Judge Bolanos’ decision as a signal that the safety issues and concerns surrounding Monsanto’s glyphosate products and the crops it genetically modifies to withstand them are here to stay.
Bayer says is plans to appeal the judge’s decision.