Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

Deserted view of NH24 near Akshardham Temple on day nine of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus on April 2, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India is home to 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, but recently air pollution levels have started to drop dramatically as the second-most populated nation endures the second week of a 21-day lockdown amidst coronavirus fears, according to The Weather Channel.

Read More Show Less
A Unicef social mobilizer uses a speaker as she carries out public health awareness to prevent the spread and detect the symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus by UNICEF at Mangateen IDP camp in Juba, South Sudan on April 2. ALEX MCBRIDE / AFP / Getty Images

By Eddie Ndopu

  • South Africa is ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in Africa.
  • Its townships are typical of high-density neighbourhoods across the continent where self-isolation will be extremely challenging.
  • The failure to eradicate extreme poverty is a threat beyond the countries in question.
Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The outside of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md. on Nov. 9, 2015. Al Drago / CQ Roll Call

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two malarial drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, despite only anecdotal evidence that either is proven effective in treating or slowing the progression of the disease in seriously ill patients.

Read More Show Less
Some speculate that the dissemination of the Antarctic beeches or Nothofagus moorei (seen above in Australia) dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

A team of scientists drilled into the ground near the South Pole to discover forest and fossils from the Cretaceous nearly 90 million years ago, which is the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
The recovery of elephant seals is one of the "signs of hope" that scientists say show the oceans can recover swiftly if we let them. NOAA / CC BY 2.0

The challenges facing the world's oceans are well known: plastic pollution could crowd out fish by 2050, and the climate crisis could wipe out coral reefs by 2100.

Read More Show Less