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Jury Awards $289 Million In First Monsanto Round Up Case

A California State Superior Court jury has found Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro herbicides contributed to a school groundskeeper’s lymphoma and awarded the plaintiff a combined $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a landmark suit against the company, which has denied links between its herbicides and cancer for decades.  Johnson v. Monsanto, et al., Case No. CGC16550128.  The verdict included $250 million in punitive damages, $2.3 million for past and future economic losses, and $37 million for pain, suffering and loss of life expectancy.

The case, expedited because of the plaintiff’s declining health, was the first of more than 4,000 lawsuits filed against Monsanto to go to trial.  After three days of deliberations, the jury found that Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate had caused Johnson to suffer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, diagnosed in 2014, and had acted maliciously in failing to warn Johnson or the public about the product’s dangers.  

Earlier this year, Monsanto secured a victory in federal court when the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of California entered a temporary, preliminary injunction halting the state’s requirement that Roundup or Ranger Pro include warning labels. National Association of Wheat Growers et al v. Lauren Zeise, director of OEHHA, et al., U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, No. 17-cv-02401 (February 17, 2018).  The Court’s analysis centered on whether a state-imposed warning label would violate Monsanto’s freedom of speech.  The Court concluded that because the “heavy weight of evidence” showed glyphosate does not cause cancer, the required warning was factually inaccurate and controversial.

The Court also held that while California can include the herbicide in its list of chemicals believed to cause cancer or birth defects, it could not require Monsanto to post a warning without more compelling evidence.  The decision is significant for Monsanto because while the State of California acknowledges products containing glyphosate can cause cancer, it cannot require Monsanto to warn consumers of the alleged dangers of using products, including glyphosate.