Monsanto Plaintiff Gets Good News, and $211M in Bad News

Judge upholds verdict against company but substantially cuts punitive damages award
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 23, 2018 5:55 AM CDT
Monsanto Plaintiff Gets Good News, and $211M in Bad News
In this June 28, 2011, file photo, bottles of Roundup herbicide, a product of Monsanto, are displayed on a store shelf in St. Louis.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

A Northern California judge on Monday upheld a jury's verdict that found Monsanto's weed killer caused a groundskeeper's cancer, but she slashed the amount of money to be paid from $289 million to $78 million. In denying Monsanto's request for a new trial, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos cut the jury's punitive damages from $250 million to $39 million, per the AP, which is the same amount the jury awarded Dewayne Johnson for other damages. The jury awarded punitive damages—designed to punish companies that juries determine have purposely misbehaved and to deter others—after it found the agribusiness had purposely ignored warnings and evidence that its popular Roundup product causes cancer, including Johnson's lymphoma. Johnson's suit is among hundreds alleging Roundup caused cancer, but the first one to go to trial.

Johnson sprayed Roundup and a similar product at his pest control manager job at a San Francisco Bay Area school district, per his attorneys. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2014 at age 42. In a tentative ruling Oct. 11, Bolanos said it appeared jurors overreached with their punitive damages award and that she was considering wiping out the $250 million judgment after finding no compelling evidence Monsanto workers ignored evidence that the weed killer caused cancer. The judge reversed course Monday and said she was compelled to honor the jurors' conclusions after they listened to expert witnesses for both sides. Bolanos has given Johnson until Dec. 7 to accept the reduced amount or demand a new trial. A rep for Johnson says he and his lawyers are reviewing the decision. A Monsanto rep says the company is pleased with the reduced reward but still plans to appeal the verdict. (How Roundup may affect bees.)

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