Judge says she'll order new Monsanto trial

Irving Hamilton
October 13, 2018

Bayer won a tentative ruling that could slash most of the $289 million dollar award in the California trial regarding claims that glyphosate in Roundup causes cancer. The award, which included $250 million in punitive damages, was to compensate Mr. Johnson for the lymphoma that he alleged was caused by exposure to professional strength Roundup.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos issued the ruling Wednesday ahead of scheduled oral arguments.

The jury in August awarded Johnson $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.

During the trial, Johnson testified that he used Roundup multiple times between 2012 and 2016 for his job and continued to use it even after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2014 at the age of 42.

Monsanto attorney George Lombardi argued in court on Wednesday that the evidence presented at trial did not support the jury verdict, and that Johnson's lawyer was wrong to urge jurors to teach the company a lesson. "The court also is considering Monsanto's motions for a new trial, JNOV and reduction of the compensatory damages".

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What happens with Johnson's case doesn't just affect him - it could set a precedent for more than 4,000 similar cases awaiting trial in federal or state courts. Attorneys for the company say Johnson failed to prove that Roundup or similar herbicides caused his lymphoma and presented no evidence that Monsanto executives were malicious in marketing Roundup. Monsanto's efforts to test its products, she writes, also are "not consistent with a finding of conscious disregard". Bolanos said that lead attorney for Johnson, Brent Wisner, had made comments in his closing argument that he'd been requested not to.

Last month, the Missouri-based agrochemical company filed motions seeking a new trial or the dismissal of the verdict, with Monsanto attorneys arguing, "the scientific evidence in this case falls far short of the sufficient and substantial evidence required to sustain this verdict".

The San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto to pay $250 million in punitive damages along with compensatory damages and other costs, bringing the total figure to almost $290 million.

The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, was the first among 8,700 people in the USA who have made similar cancer claims against Monsanto, which is now owned by Germany's Bayer.

"If the damages number isn't significant enough, champagne corks will pop", Wisner said of the Monsanto board.

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