DeWayne Johnson, a former groundskeeper who is now terminally ill, recently won $289 million after jurors concluded that his cancer was caused by Monsanto’s popular weedkiller Roundup and that the company hid the product’s health hazards. The remarkable verdict could set a precedent for several other cases against the company.
US agro-chemical giant Monsanto has suffered a major blow with the jury deciding that the company was the one accountable for a dying man’s cancer. The jury ruled the company should pay $250 million in punitive damages and over $39 million in compensatory damages.
DeWayne Johnson’s case was the first one to be heard because he is dying. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cell cancer, at age of 42 in 2014. According to his doctors, he may have just a few months to live.
Working as a groundskeeper and pest manager for a school district in Benicia near San Francisco since 2012, he said he sprayed Roundup weedkiller on the school grounds. He also testified that there were two accidents wherein he was soaked with the product.
Johnson, a father of two, discussed during the trial his pain as skin lesions cover his body. “I’ve been going through a lot of pain,” Johnson testified. “It really takes everything out of you… I’m not getting any better.” His wife also said she has had two 40-hour-per-week jobs to support the family and help pay medical bills.
Now 46 years old, Johnson blames Roundup for his suffering and accused the company of covering up the health risks of the weedkiller. His team argued through scientific analyses that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, is carcinogenic to humans.
Monsanto is firm in rejecting the allegations and claims that the herbicide glyphosate is safe and it does not cause cancer.
However, the jury ruled that the company was indeed responsible for “negligent failure” and knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous.” After the verdict, Monsanto issued a statement saying that it would appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, about 4,000 cases are awaiting trial in other state courts, making similar claims that Roundup causes cancer.
Though the $289 million wouldn’t change the fact that Johnson is dying, his lawyer Timothy Litzenburg said, “He’s going to live the rest of that time in extreme comfort.”
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