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.