(August 10, 2018) Monsanto was hit by a $289 million verdict in the first Roundup trial yesterday. A jury deliberated for nearly three days before awarding a former California groundskeeper the decision in the landmark trial.
Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson sued Monsanto in 2016. He claimed Monsanto knew of health risks linked with Roundup and its even stronger Ranger Pro products since the 1990s. That’s when studies began showing a correlation between Monsanto’s flagship product and lymphoma. Monsanto, however, downplayed the risks, the lawsuit petition charges. Monsanto also failed to put a warning label on its cancer-causing products. Monsanto failed to warn Mr. Johnson, ruled the jury. He thought it safe to use Roundup and Ranger Pro while he worked as a groundskeeper for a San Francisco Bay Area school district.
Mr. Johnson took the stand toward the end of the month-long trial. He recalled being told during an optional pesticide training program that Ranger Pro was “safe enough to drink.” Shortly afterwards, he said that a spray machine malfunction drenched him in the poison, despite his taking extra safety precautions in wearing a Tyvek bodysuit over his uniform.
After he was drenched, he noticed a nodule on the back of his leg, behind his knee. Other nodules quickly spread to his arms, legs, chest, face, hands. Mr. Johnson was eventually diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But he continued spraying Monsanto’s poisons anyway. He didn’t know if the Ranger Pro had caused his cancer, and he didn’t want to lose his job. An additional accident covered his back in the poison.
Mosanto hit by $289 Million Verdict in First Roundup Trial
Three different plaintiff’s experts testified earlier that Monsanto’s Roundup causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or that Monsanto misrepresented the safety of the products used by Mr. Johnson.
Toxicologist Dr. William Sawyer testified to the 16-member jury that 10 percent of Roundup’s only named active ingredient – glyphosate — can be absorbed through human skin, more than 10 times the amount Monsanto claims can be absorbed when one is using Roundup or Ranger Pro. Monsanto claims users absorb less than 1 percent.
Another plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Chadi Nabhan — an oncologist and former medical director of the University of Chicago’s cancer center — testified that Monsanto’s products caused Mr. Johnson’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Dr. Chadi Nabhan told the jury that he had reviewed epidemiological studies and found that glyphosate can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After reading thousands of pages of Mr. Johnson’s medical records and examining him, Dr. Nabhan said glyphosate was likely to blame for his cancer. Dr.Nabhan discussed risk factors associated with cancer, including age, race, the patient’s immune system, viruses, and work history. He said the only risk factors that raised a red flag were Mr. Johnson’s race — because his subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, mycosis fungoides, is more prevalent in black patients — and his glyphosate exposure on the job.
“There was exposure to an agent that has been determined [to be] a human carcinogen,” Dr. Nabhan testified. “So nobody could logically exclude this as a substantial factor.”
Experts for Monsanto testified that hundreds of studies showed glyphosate was safe. Plaintiffs countered that all of those studies were done by Monsanto employees, or else they were paid for by Monsanto, or they were studies that were of too short a duration to be definitive, or else their sample sizes were too small.
Monsanto experts also attacked the WHO, as Monsanto secretly did in the press and blogosphere across the world, for pronouncing glyphosate a probable carcinogen. Monsanto’s lawyers and experts pointed out that the EPA and the European equivalent of the U.S. EPA had found glyphosate safe.
But in a glimpse behind the regulatory curtain, the jury also heard testimony concerning how a former EPA official, Jess Rowland, worked secretly at the behest of Monsanto to help kill a study over the safety of glyphosate. Mr. Johnson’s lawyers also pointed out that the WHO looked only at independent studies not paid for by Monsanto in arriving at their conclusion that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen.
Monsanto vowed to appeal the verdict.