Jury Orders Monsanto to Pay $289 Million to Cancer Sufferer
A jury has ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to former school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson for a lawsuit filed in 2016 pertaining to Roundup. Roundup’s main ingredient is glyphosate, which was approved for use as an herbicide in 1974. However, it has long been thought by many to cause cancer.
Johnson, a father of two, applied Roundup close to thirty times per year while working as a pest manager for a county school system and later developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The 46-year-old was first in line to go to trial against the giant company, and a jury found Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killer to likely be cancer-causing. The company is facing thousands of similar lawsuits regarding Roundup’s ingredients.
Johnson went first because of his poor prognosis. Yet, he said it’s not about him. “Dying is something that everybody has to do, right? So, if you know you’re dying…it gives you that extra push. It’s, like, okay, well, you can’t just die for nothing,” he said. His supervisors told him the herbicide was completely safe, but he had to wear protective gear. “One of the things that stuck out to me the worst is when they told me it was safe enough to drink,” Johnson said.
At one point, while spraying the chemical, a hose came undone and it leaked inside his suit. A few months later, a rash spread all over his body. “It never went away. And it got worse, and then worse, and worse,” Johnson said. That’s when doctors diagnosed him with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
After receiving the life-changing diagnosis, Johnson decided to call Monsanto. He said he wanted to ask, “Is it possible that maybe if someone got this on their skin, would they get sick? Would they get rashes? Would they get lymphoma?” Johnson was told he would receive a call back by someone who could better answer his questions but never did.
During trial, an email was presented that clearly shows a Monsanto executive was notified of Johnson’s call and responded he’d call him back. However, when the man was deposed, he indicated he couldn’t remember whether the two had ever spoken.
The verdict the jury delivered is, instead, the validation Johnson needed. “The verdict really meant to me – that this thing was not done in vain,” Johnson said. “I remember standing there saying to myself, if I lose this case, this company is gonna get away and… they’ll be able to say, ‘See? Told you our stuff didn’t do that.’”
Monsanto’s executive vice president Scott Partridge responded to the result, “We all have tremendous sympathy for Mr. Johnson and his family. What they’ve gone through with this disease is terrible.” He added, “It doesn’t change the overwhelming scientific evidence and the forty years of safe use of around the world.”
Monsanto had previously stated in court filings, “Every major regulatory agency charged with answering the question has, with the benefit of all the available primary data, concluded that glyphosate is not likely to pose risks of carcinogenicity.” The company plans to appeal.