Monsanto granted new trial after $250 million judgement

Dewayne Johnson

In August, a jury awarded Dewayne Johnson, a former Benicia Unified School District groundskeeper who is terminally ill from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages, following an 8-week trial in which he testified to using Monsanto's product, Roundup, for years. Johnson is the first of more than 4,000 cancer patients to take Monsanto to trial. In her tentative ruling, issued ahead of that hearing, the judge addressed Monsanto's two motions -- one for a new trial and one for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The judge gave attorneys on both sides until Friday to submit written arguments before she makes a final decision.

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.

Monsanto's attorney George Lombardi argued for a new trial, saying the comparing Monsanto to the tobacco industry was intentional and inaccurate.

A San Francisco judge has tentatively struck the punitive damages in a $289 million verdict linking Monsanto Co.'s herbicide Roundup to cancer.

In a tentative ruling, a San Francisco judge Wednesday granted a new trial in a case against pesticide manufacturer Monsanto brought by a cancer-stricken Vallejo man who was awarded hundreds of millions in damages.

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"We have a jury that got it right and did it right", argued Johnson's lawyer, Michael Miller. The ruling calls into question the bulk of the $289 million judgment, the first in thousands of cases alleging that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Bayer's Roundup herbicide, causes cancer.

Bolanos wrote plaintiff DeWayne Johnson failed to produce "clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression" by Monsanto. She said the evidence wasn't there to award $250 million in punitive damages. However, Bolanos in her tentative noted that the plaintiff had failed to provide evidence that any Monsanto employee believed exposure to its glyphosate -based products would cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

In addition to arguing lack of scientific basis, Monsanto lawyers said that the punitive award was not justified because there was no evidence that company executives acted maliciously in marketing their product, Roundup. Bolanos was not expected to rule immediately.

Johnson's attorneys responded in court documents that the jury was attentive and well-educated and reached a reasonable verdict.

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