$289M Verdict for Roundup Cancer Victim

Sometimes we might stop and think about what we’re spraying on our lawns, or about the chemicals we must handle in our workplaces. Despite regulations, some workers are still exposed to hazardous materials on a regular basis. Cancer is sometimes the outcome after extended periods of time.

Repeated exposure to Monsanto’s weedkiller, Roundup, and its active ingredient, glyphosate, has long been suspected of causing cancer. In early August of 2018, a California jury agreed with the case of a terminally-ill man suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, awarding him $289 million in damages for his prolonged exposure to glyphosate.

Product liability cases, like the one involving Monsanto’s Roundup, can be extremely complex, requiring expert legal guidance that has your best interests in mind. If you or a loved one is suffering from a defective product, we encourage you to call the Baltimore Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler today for a free review of your case.

The Case

Starting in 2012, 46-year-old Dewayne (“Lee”) Johnson worked as a groundskeeper for the Benicia school district north of San Francisco, California. His job required him to spray Ranger Pro, a Monsanto weedkiller similar to Roundup, on school grounds, sometimes for hours at a time. After being diagnosed in 2014 with the blood-cell cancer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), Johnson filed suit in 2016, alleging that his prolonged exposure to the herbicide caused his NHL.

Johnson was the first person ever to bring Monsanto to trial due to claims that their glyphosate products, Roundup and Ranger Pro, cause cancer.

The Arguments

The lawyers for Johnson argued that Monsanto had fought against the science behind the cancer claims for many years, by doing things like targeting academics who spoke out regarding the potential health risks of glyphosate exposure. Monsanto internal documents were also brought to light, revealing that the company has known of the product’s health risk for years. In a statement, one of Johnson’s lawyers noted that, “We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that . . . Roundup could cause cancer.”

However, Monsanto’s Vice President, Scott Partridge, claimed that the internal communications had been “taken completely out of context.” He rebuffed the possibility that Roundup might cause cancer, saying after trial that the “verdict doesn’t change the four-plus decades of safe use and science behind the product.” The company has insisted for decades that the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is not linked to cancer and is safe to use.

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Glyphosate is the most widely-used herbicide in the world, approved for use in 130 countries on more than 100 crops. In 2015, however, the World Health Organization’s IARC, or International Agency for Research on Cancer, labeled glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

The Outcome

According to the jury, Monsanto should have known that its product was “dangerous.” They ruled that the corporation was responsible for its “negligent failure,” and that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression.” Johnson’s award was $250 million for punitive damages and $39.2 million in compensatory damages.

Johnson testified to his pain and suffering caused by his numerous, cancerous skin lesions: “I’ve been going through a lot of pain. It really takes everything out of you . . . I’m not getting any better.” Johnson also stated that, if he’d known how dangerous the herbicide was, that he “never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people.”

Appealing the Verdict

Monsanto has stated it will appeal the verdict. However, the grounds the company will supposedly use, that claims of glyphosate’s causing cancer are “junk science,” may not have much success, according to some legal experts. Lars Noah, a law professor at the University of Florida, has commented, “This is one of those difficult questions at the margins of science and the judge found the evidence simply wasn’t inadmissible.”

What Are Toxic Torts?

Cases such as the Monsanto one are called toxic torts. One problem inherent in toxic tort cases is that the harm suffered is not always immediately apparent. Some toxic substances have long latency periods, with effects that may not become evident for months or years. Maryland’s statutes of limitation (deadlines) for filing toxic tort personal injury claims begin the moment the injury is discovered. You need to move swiftly in order to bring negligent corporations and individuals to justice while obtaining the compensation you deserve.

Let Down by the System? “The Injury Lawyer” Can Help You.

Steve Heisler, your Baltimore toxic tort attorney, can help evaluate your claim, get in touch with expert witnesses, conduct a thorough investigation, and negotiate the discovery and court processes necessary for successful verdicts and settlements. The Maryland Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler focuses on recovery for personal injury victims, including those who have suffered from toxic substances. Call us today or use our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.