A case that raised questions about what the maker of Roundup knew about the dangers of its popular Roundup product has turned a new page. Dewayne “Lee” Johnson has agreed to accept a $78 million settlement after a judge upheld the jury’s original ruling but slashed the civil case’s $289 million award.
Johnson’s case was the first to directly connect Roundup with deadly cancer. Bayer, which acquired Roundup earlier this year, faces about 8,000 more lawsuits, according to Reuters.
The company says it plans to appeal.
In August, Judge Suzanne Bolanos lowered the punitive damages from $250 million to $39 million, the same amount awarded for compensatory damages. Bolanos gave Johnson and his attorneys until Dec. 7 to either accept the new amount or ask for a new trial, a call they answered this week. At the time, Bolanos said she was considering eliminating the entire $250 million in punitive damages because she said there was no compelling evidence that Monsanto ignored evidence that Roundup caused cancer. In the end, Bolanos decided to honor the jury’s ruling and instead lowered the amount of punitive damages.
It was an outcome DeWayne Johnson’s family wasn’t sure he would see in person.
Lawyers for Johnson focused their efforts on proving Monsanto suppressed evidence that its Roundup herbicide has cancer-causing properties. Opening statements began in San Francisco on July 9.
Johnson’s attorney said Monsanto took away his client’s freedom to choose, reported KGO. “If you don’t give someone a choice and somebody gets hurt or, God forbid, gets cancer, then I personally believe and I think you will as well that you should be responsible for the consequences of that,” attorney Brent Wisner said.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise that after 20 years, Monsanto has known about the cancer-causing properties of this chemical and has tried to stop the public from knowing it,” said attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Monsanto argued that Johnson developed cancer before using Roundup. “The scientific evidence is overwhelming that Glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer,” said defense attorney George Lombardi. “The single most relevant study — best study, study of human beings who, like Mr. Johnson, are licensed pesticide applicators — concluded glyphosate is not associated with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Mr. Johnson’s cancer.”
Weeding out the truth
DeWayne Johnson, 46, worked as a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District in California from 2012 to 2015. In that role, he sprayed Roundup herbicides on school properties. Johnson was healthy when he started the job, but in August 2014, he received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
By January 2018, Johnson’s body was 80 percent covered in lesions, according to the deposition of his physician; he is often unable to speak or leave his bed, despite a new treatment he started in January. At the time, his doctors thoughts he might only have months to live.
Johnson’s lawsuit alleged that Monsanto’s product caused his cancer, and that Monsanto was aware of the medical risks posed by its glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, but covered it up through a campaign of misinformation and attacks on studies that proclaimed the dangers.