Quantcast

Judge Upholds Historic Monsanto Verdict But Lowers Damages

Health + Wellness

Dewayne Johnson reacts after the verdict to his case at the Superior Court Of California in San Francisco on Aug. 10. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

A San Francisco judge made a surprise ruling Monday and upheld a jury's verdict that Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller gave a California groundskeeper cancer, and that the company failed to warn him of the danger, CNN reported.

Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos had issued a tentative ruling Oct. 10 ordering a new trial over the punitive damages awarded to plaintiff Dewayne "Lee" Johnson, saying he had failed to prove that Monsanto acted with "malice or oppression." After reviewing arguments from both sides, however, Bolanos instead upheld the verdict, but lowered the punitive damages from $250 million to $39 million. A new trial will only take place if Johnson's lawyers don't accept the reduced award.


"The evidence presented to this jury was, quite frankly, overwhelming … Today is a triumph for our legal system. We care deeply for Lee and his family, and we are excited to share this important win with them and all those who supported this case," Johnson's lawyers said in a statement reported by The Guardian.

His legal team added also said the reduction in damages was "unwarranted" and that they were "weighing the options."

Bayer, the German company that bought Monsanto this year, saw its shares fall eight percent because of Bolans' decision, Reuters reported.

"The court's decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal," Bayer said, as CNN reported.

Johnson was originally awarded a total of $289 million in August—$39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. The verdict was historic because it was the first of more than 8,000 similar pending lawsuits against Monsanto claiming that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its Roundup product, caused cancer in plaintiffs or their loved ones.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer listed glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled it was "not likely" to cause cancer in humans in a draft risk assessment published in December 2017.

Johnson was awarded an early trial because he is not expected to live past two years, and California grants early trials to dying plaintiffs.

Before Bolanos issued her final ruling Monday, five of the jurors who had decided in Johnson's favor wrote letters to her asking her not to overturn their decision, Reuters reported.

"You may not have been convinced by the evidence but we were," juror Gary Kitahata wrote in a letter to Bolanos reported in The San Francisco Chronicle. "I urge you to respect and honor our verdict and the six weeks of our lives that we dedicated to this trial."

Bolanos did not address those letters in her ruling, but said the jury was entitled to its feelings, Reuters said. In the end, her decision to reduce damages was not based on lack of evidence, but California due process law.

"In enforcing due process limits, the court does not sit as a replacement for the jury but only as a check on arbitrary awards," Bolanos wrote in her ruling Monday, according to CNN. "The punitive damages award must be constitutionally reduced to the maximum allowed by due process in this case—$39,253,209.35—equal to the amount of compensatory damages awarded by the jury based on its findings of harm to the plaintiff."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

California Condor at soaring at the Grand Canyon. Pavliha / iStock / Getty Images

North America's largest bird passed an important milestone this spring when the 1,000th California condor chick hatched since recovery efforts began, NPR reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less
The Roloway monkey has been pushed closer to extinction. Sonja Wolters / WAPCA / IUCN

The statistics around threatened species are looking grim. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added more than 9,000 new additions to its Red List of threatened species, pushing the total number of species on the list to more than 105,000 for the first time, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

The campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump has found a new way to troll liberals and sea turtles.

Read More Show Less
Night long exposure photograph of wildifires in Santa Clarita, California. FrozenShutter / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristy Dahl

Last week, UCS released Killer Heat, a report analyzing how the frequency of days with a dangerously hot heat index — the combination of temperature and humidity the National Weather Service calls the "feels like" temperature — will change in response to the global emissions choices we make in the coming decades.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A Zara store in Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Timahaowemi / CC BY-SA 3.0

Green is the new black at Zara.

The Spanish fast fashion behemoth has made a bold move to steer its industry to a more environmentally friendly future for textiles. Inditex, Zara's parent company, announced that all the polyester, cotton and linen it uses will be sustainably produced by 2025, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Whether you enjoy running recreationally, competitively, or as part of your overall wellness goals, it's a great way to improve your heart health.

Read More Show Less
Text from the plaque that will mark the site where Ok glacier once was. Rice University

By Andrea Germanos

A climate change victim in Iceland is set to be memorialized with a monument that underscores the urgent crisis.

Read More Show Less