Stand With Jurors Against Monsanto!

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We write in support of the jury’s verdict in Dewayne Johnson’s case against Monsanto for terminal cancer he contracted from workplace exposure to the company’s glyphosate-based weedkiller.

Johnson, 46, of Vallejo, was a groundskeeper and pest-control manager for the Benicia Unified School District from 2012 until May 2016. 

In the course of his employment, Johnson was exposed to Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate in a high-concentration formulation called Ranger Pro. He sprayed the weedkiller from 50-gallon drums 20-30 times a year for 2-3 hours a day. He was exposed to windblown spray, despite protective clothing, and was drenched twice with the herbicide when the equipment he was using broke. 

Johnson developed a skin rash, which turned to lesions, and noticed it worsened after he used Monsanto’s product. Worried, he called Monsanto's offices as well as a poison hotline number listed on the herbicide label. Monsanto employees recorded his outreach and his concerns, but even after glyphosate was classified as a probable carcinogen, Monsanto did not acknowledge or inform him of any risk. 

He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2014, and with a more aggressive form of the cancer in March 2015. His doctors say Johnson is unlikely to survive to 2020.

After hearing expert testimony from both sides the jury deliberated and, on August 10, 2018, returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Johnson. The jury awarded damages for past economic loss - $819,882.32; future economic loss - $1,433,327.00; past noneconomic loss - $4,000,000.00; future noneconomic loss - $33,000,000.00; punitive damages - $250,000,000.00.

The jury relied on solid evidence as the basis for its verdict and judgment:

Expert witnesses and scientific documents presented to the court provided substantial evidence that Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides were a substantial factor in Johnson’s cancer.

Monsanto has been suppressing the cancer risks of glyphosate-based herbicides since 1985, when it opposed an EPA proposal to classifying glyphosate as a possible carcinogen to prevent “serious negative economic repercussions.”

In the 1990’s, after several published studies concluded that glyphosate was genotoxic, Monsanto hired a recognized genotoxicity expert, Dr. James Parry. After comparing independent studies with Monsanto’s own research, Dr. Parry concluded in 1999 that “glyphosate is capable of producing genotoxicity both in vivo and in vitro by a mechanism based upon the production of oxidative damage.” Monsanto burried the findings and rejected Dr. Perry’s suggestions for further experiments.

In 2000, Monsanto began publishing ghost-written papers claiming glyphosate-based herbicides were “non-carcinogenic and non-genotoxic.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are more dangerous in formulations that produce 1,4-Dioxane and ethylene dioxide “one of the most potent carcinogens known to man.” The presence of surfactants, such as POEA, increase the absorption of herbicides through human skin. Internally, Monsanto employees wondered, “there are non-hazardous formulations, so why sell a hazardous one?”

Monsanto maintained a “Product Safety Center.” The mission of its employees was to suppress and dispute information that called into question the safety of its glyphosate-based herbicides.

Monsanto developed moles within the Environmental Protection Agency to steer regulatory reviews in its favor. 

Monsanto intentionally marketed glyphosate-based herbicides knowing the products might cause injury and death. 

It is not possible to undo the damage Monsanto has done to the millions of people around the world who have been exposed to its dangerous herbicides. It is not possible to give Dewayne Johnson his health or life expectancy back.

But you do have a duty to deliver justice according to the rule of law. In this case, that means upholding the jury’s verdict and judgment. 

statue of blindfolded lady justice with sword and scale against blue and black skyA judge is threatening to overturn a jury’s $289-million verdict for school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson. Johnson has terminal cancer, caused by long-term workplace exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkiller.

TAKE ACTION: Stand with jurors against Monsanto! Tell Judge Suzanne Bolanos to uphold the jury’s unanimous decision!

On October 10, the Associated Press reported that Judge Suzanne Bolanos issued a tentative ruling saying she intended to toss out the jury’s $250-million punitive damage award and schedule a new trial on that issue. The judge also suggested she would reduce the $39 million in compensatory damages awarded to Johnson to only $8 million—if she upholds the jury’s decision that Monsanto’s weedkiller caused Dewayne Johnson’s cancer. 

Attorneys for both sides submitted written briefs to the judge on Friday. Bolanos’ decision is expected by Monday, October 22.

For Bayer, which bought Monsanto this year for $63 billion, it’s all about the money. 

When the jury’s $289-million verdict was announced in August, investors feared the award would be multiplied by the 8,000 similar lawsuits pending in courts around the country. Bayer shares fell by as much as 14 percent ($14 billion in value). 

When Judge Bolanos announced she would reverse or reduce the jury’s verdict, Bayer's shares jumped as much as 6.4 percent

For the jurors, it’s about justice. 

Eight jurors and two alternates, who had already completed their six weeks of service, voluntarily returned to Judge Bolanos’s courtroom for the October 10 hearing “to support the verdict.” 

Since the hearing, at least four of the jurors have additionally written letters to the judge, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Gary Kitahata, Juror #1, owner of a financial consulting company, wrote to the judge:

We followed your instructions carefully and took our responsibilities seriously. We decided to assess punitive damages only after determining there was clear and convincing evidence that Monsanto had acted with “malice or oppression” and that such conduct was authorized by “one or more officers, directors or managing agents of Monsanto.” The amount of such damages was the result of careful consideration and discussion, based on the court’s instructions and definitions.

Robert Howard, Juror #4, an artist and residential contractor, wrote

The possibility that, after our studious attention to the presentation of evidence, our adherence to your instructions, and several days of careful deliberations, our unanimous verdict could be summarily overturned demeans our system of justice and shakes my confidence in that system.

Charlie Kaupp, Juror #11, wrote

[O]n August 10th, the jury spoke unanimously on every one of your verdict questions except the one about the amount of punitive damages (and that one was eleven-to-one). Monsanto requested a jury trial, as is their right. The fact that sixteen San Francisco citizens gave up six weeks to participate in the justice system with honor and integrity, only to have our verdict overruled, is an insult to our intelligence and disrespectful of our time, not to mention disrespectful to the process and institution of trial by jury.

Dewayne Johnson deserves justice. Monsanto should be held accountable. And a carefully considered verdict handed down by jurors who followed the judge’s instructions, should be allowed to stand.

Otherwise, why have a court system at all?

TAKE ACTION: Stand with jurors against Monsanto! Tell Judge Suzanne Bolanos to uphold the jury’s unanimous decision


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