In August of 2018, California school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson had his day in court, presenting evidence that his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was a case of Roundup cancer. After hearing testimony in the case, the jury unanimously agreed that Monsanto was responsible for his injuries and assessed the company $289 million, including $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
Though the trial judge lowered the total verdict in the Roundup cancer case to $78 million, Monsanto elected to appeal the reduced amount. This week the case was presented to an appeals court, which denied Monsanto’s plea to overturn the verdict. The court also cut the damages award to $20.5 million.
Roundup Cancer Award Significantly Reduced Because of Victim’s Impending Death
Though the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District of California called Monsanto’s arguments “unpersuasive” and agreed that Mr. Johnson presented “abundant—and certainly substantial— evidence that glyphosate, together with the other ingredients in Roundup products, caused his cancer,” the court also noted that because Mr. Johnson’s Roundup cancer is terminal and he won’t live much longer, his compensation for future pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment and physical impairment should be reduced. A family representative attributed the reduction decision to a flaw in California’s laws regarding personal injury awards, saying, “Basically, California law does not allow a plaintiff to recover for a shortened life expectancy. This effectively rewards a defendant for killing a plaintiff, as opposed to just injuring him. It is madness.”
The court also made clear that the evidence presented during the Roundup cancer sufficiently proved that awarding punitive damages in the case were entirely appropriate, noting that Monsanto had demonstrated “willful and conscious disregard of others’ safety.” In finalizing the ruling, the court indicated that Monsanto also owed Mr. Johnson interest at the rate of 10 percent for the period of time that had elapsed since the date that the jury verdict came in.