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Monsanto Trial: Judge Rejects Bid to Overturn Landmark Cancer Verdict
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=41599"><span class="small">Sam Levin, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 08:36

Levin writes: "A California judge has rejected Monsanto's appeal to overturn a landmark jury verdict which found that its popular herbicide causes cancer."

Dewayne 'Lee' Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict in his case against Monsanto. (photo: Josh Edelson/AP)
Dewayne 'Lee' Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict in his case against Monsanto. (photo: Josh Edelson/AP)

Monsanto Trial: Judge Rejects Bid to Overturn Landmark Cancer Verdict

By Sam Levin, Guardian UK

23 October 18

Dewayne Johnson originally won $289m after finding Roundup weedkiller caused illness, but judge reduces financial award

California judge has rejected Monsanto’s appeal to overturn a landmark jury verdict which found that its popular herbicide causes cancer.

The judge’s ruling on Monday largely sided with Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a father of three and former school groundskeeper, who won a $289m award over the summer after alleging that his exposure to Roundup weedkiller gave him cancer. During the trial, the first of its kind, the 46-year-old also alleged that Monsanto had failed to warn him of the risks of using its product.

Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, filed an appeal of the verdict, which said the company was responsible for “negligent failure”, knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”, and had “acted with malice or oppression”.

Monsanto fought to overturn the verdict, arguing the evidence was insufficient. The San Francisco superior court judge Suzanne Bolanos had suggested in an initial written ruling this month that she was considering granting a new trial. But she ultimately denied Monsanto’s request. However, she has ruled to reduce punitive damages from $250m to $39m.

The judge said in her ruling Monday that if Johnson did not accept the lower punitive damages, she would order a new trial for Monsanto.

Johnson’s lawyers said in a statement Monday that the “reduction in punitive damages was unwarranted” and that his legal team, Baum Hedlund and the Miller Firm, was “weighing the options”.

They added, “The evidence presented to this jury was, quite frankly, overwhelming … Today is a triumph for our legal system. We care deeply for Lee and his family, and we are excited to share this important win with them and all those who supported this case.”

Bayer said in a statement that the reduction in damages was a “step in the right direction”, but that the company planned to file another appeal of the verdict.

The August verdict was a major victory for campaigners who have long fought Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world. Studies have repeatedly linked the glyphosate chemical, sold under the Roundup and Ranger Pro brands, to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a type of blood cancer. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled to classify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

Johnson’s lawyers further argued that internal Monsanto emails uncovered in the litigation suggested that the corporation has repeatedly worked to stifle critical research over the years while “ghost-writing” scientific reports favorable to glyphosate.

Thousands of plaintiffs across the country have made similar legal claims, alleging that glyphosate exposure caused their cancer or resulted in the deaths of their loved ones.

Monsanto and Bayer have repeatedly insisted that glyphosate is safe to use and does not cause cancer.

Last week, four jury members spoke to the Guardian about the judge questioning their unanimous decision, urging her to allow the verdict to stand.

In a recent interview, Johnson told the Guardian that he wanted to see his case have a long-term impact, including new restrictions and labeling for the herbicide.

“I hope [Monsanto] gets the message that people in America and across the world are not ignorant. They have already done their own research,” he said, adding: “I’m hoping that it snowballs and people really get the picture and they start to make decisions about what they eat, what they spray in their farms.”

Johnson could have months to live and is not expected to survive beyond two years.

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+6 # indian weaving 2018-10-23 09:27
I worked for Bayer out of Leverkusen in 1979-82. I had "friends" from college at SIUE working on Monsanto's GMO's at Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA for years. Monsanto paid Scripps for use of their facilities like many others. I now despise both Bayer and my former "friends" for what they've done to life on earth. I'm not impressed with Scripps anymore either.
+5 # chapdrum 2018-10-23 10:49
It is always a "probable" or "likely" carcinogen. The deference to (mega-) corporations marches on, but this is a rare break.
+3 # Cassandra2013 2018-10-23 11:25
Bayer deserves to be boycotted!
+4 # Texas Aggie 2018-10-23 11:47
There ought to be some legal formula for determining punitive damages. It seems to me that a reduction of $211 million ought to require some explanation for the change. Did the judge give any reason or did she just reduce the penalty to Monsanto's pocket change because they asked her to?
0 # lfeuille 2018-10-23 23:23
I far as I know she didn't give a reason, but it may be that she wasn't expecting the outrage from the jury members that her earlier statements which led people to think she might overturn the verdict outright. It's my guess that that is what she would have done if they hadn't spoken out. $78 million will do a lot from the victim and his family but it is not enough to make Monsanto/Beyer reconsider their actions.
+1 # MikeAF48 2018-10-23 16:18
Finally some justice for the Black man a hell of a price to pay cancer will kill him with 39 million in his back pocket. This kinda makes you wonder what's on my plate?