The $289 Million Monsanto Verdict & Why You Should Be Paying Attention

Updated: Jan 12

$289 million–that’s what a jury in California recently decided the Monsanto company owed a man dying of cancer after exposure to its chemical weed-killer, Roundup. What is this case about? And could I be awarded damages for disease caused by Roundup? You can of course contact us with questions at any time.


Here's a look at what happened:


Monsanto Case Overview

Dewayne Johnson was a groundskeeper and pest-control manager from California. As part of his job, Johnson frequently worked with the weed-killer Roundup, and at least twice in his career liquid Roundup spilled and soaked his body completely. Roundup and its main ingredient, glyphosate, have long been suspected of causing cancer.


Dewayne was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an aggressive cancer that usually causes death. Mr. Johnson is dying. So Dewayne sued Monsanto, claiming that his exposure to Roundup caused the cancer that was killing him. The jurors in this case had to decide whether Roundup, and more specifically the chemical glyphosate, caused Dewayne’s cancer. If so, the jury had to decide whether Monsanto properly warned users to be take precautions.


Although the EPA has found that glyphosate is probably not cancer-causing, there is evidence that when the chemical comes into contact with the other substances in Roundup it becomes carcinogenic to humans. The World Health Organization disagrees and has found that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic. Moreover, there are now hundreds of cases of individuals who have developed cancer and other illness and believe Roundup is to blame. Today, many people are suing Monsanto now that Dewayne Johnson has won this lawsuit. Johnson’s case was expedited because he is close to his death and was therefore awarded the opportunity to bring his case before the court before his passing. When he passes, he will leave behind two sons and a wife who is currently holding two 40-hour a week jobs to keep the family afloat.


What Is Roundup?

Roundup is an herbicide that is commonly used throughout the world, and is most effective at removing perennial plants. The main ingredient in Roundup is the chemical glyphosate. Glyphosate is often quoted by the National Cancer Institute along with other organizations as being a possible human carcinogen. It is often used on genetically-modified seeds and is starting to be linked to the disruption of hormones and resistance to antibiotics within plants. Globally, governments are starting to consider the banning of glyphosate deeming it unsafe. Many schools are also considering halting the use of the herbicide on their campuses to protect student health.


How is Roundup Used?

Glyphosate was created by Monsanto as a weed killer. The chemical works by blocking proteins that are necessary for a plant to grow. Commonly found in many US households, Roundup is also used on mass-produced crops such as corn, cotton and soy. It is used on these products in particular because they have been genetically altered to be resistant to Roundup. In other words, crops that are genetically modified to resist roundup can be sprayed with it; it kills the weeds, but the crops survive.


One of the biggest unknowns about this chemical and a core reason why it is so controversial is that there is no monitoring or knowledge of what happens to the chemical once it is applied to crops.


The U.S. government does not keep track of the impact of glyphosate residue in human tissue and blood.

After tests by the USGS (United States Geological Survey) revealed that glyphosate is in many waterways throughout the United States, little action was taken by the government to research what this meant and determine whether or not it was a problem that needed to be addressed.


Impact of Glyphosate on Humans

Although the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States came to the conclusion that glyphosate does not cause cancer, they were made to reconsider their opinion when new evidence from the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer was made public. The research center came to the conclusion that exposure to glyphosate did, in fact, impact a human's likelihood of getting cancer, saying that it was more likely for those exposed to glyphosate to develop cancer and more specifically, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


The Case Decision of Dewayne Johnson

After Johnson’s long court battle, the jury unanimously ruled in favor of him awarding $39.5 million in compensatory damages. This was the amount of money the jury decided was needed to make up for the harm that Monsanto caused him. It also awarded $250 million in punitive damages, which are meant to punish Monsanto for its wrongful conduct and encourage the company to change in the future. Although every juror agreed on this sum, the judge involved in the case, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos, later changed their decision by ruling that punitive damages must equal to the compensatory damages, making each of them $35.9 million. The judge defended her position claiming that a judge’s job is to provide a check on arbitrary measures. Johnson accepted the $78 million compensation out of a desire to close up the case and see a resolution before the cancer eventually kills him.


Why Is this Relevant to Vermonters?

Throughout the United States, and even in the little state of Vermont, the chemical product Roundup is still accessible to anyone who walks into the hardware store. Although this chemical is extremely prevalent, there is still little education on the side effects that its use may have on human beings, nor are there many regulations about its use. Vermonters need to be aware that there is a discussion of whether or not this chemical causes harm to human beings. They should be presented with the facts about its potential harm in order to make the best decision for their personal health.


Are You a Victim of Roundup?

Vermonters who have suffered harm from exposure to Roundup, particularly victims of cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, should contact a products liability lawyer.


We Are Taking on Monsanto!

We are looking for people who with non-Hodgkins lymphoma who were exposed to the weedkiller Roundup. If you or a loved one has had such an experience, we can help.


Contact Meub Gallivan & Larson.

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