Court Panel Affirms Decision That Roundup Causes Cancer, but Slashes Record Jury Verdict
A groundbreaking jury verdict that found that Monsanto’s widely used weedkiller caused a groundskeeper’s cancer still stands under a California appellate decision issued last month, but the panel slashed the award to $20.6 million.
Monsanto Co., a unit of German chemical giant Bayer AG, had argued that DeWayne “Lee” Johnson failed to prove that using Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had failed to prove liability. The chemical-maker also had contended that Johnson’s failure-to-warn claims were not applicable because of federal law.
Monsanto had cited the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic in humans.
But the three-judge panel disagreed, writing, “In our view, Johnson presented abundant — and certainly substantial — evidence that glyphosate, together with the other ingredients in Roundup products, caused his cancer.”
The court stated that Monsanto “was obligated to warn of potential risks and side effects” and that the company had the duty to warn that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide globally, is a possible human carcinogen.
The International Agency on Cancer Research has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” since 2015.
Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner called the ruling “another major victory” for him and his family.
In consideration of Johnson’s true life expectancy, the judges cut the total verdict award from $78 million to $10.25 million in compensatory damages and $10.25 million in punitive damages.
Bayer is considering an appeal to the California Supreme Court and said it continues to stand behind its products. “Glyphosate and our glyphosate-based formulated products can be used safely and do not cause cancer,” the company said in a statement.
By T.J. La
Ton La, Jr. (T.J.) is a sixth-year MD/JD/LLM candidate at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston Law Center applying to internal medicine residency programs in Fall 2021. He was a 2019–2020 Doximity Op-Med Fellow, a former guest writer for KevinMD.com, and a past Student Editor of The New Physician Magazine from 2017–2019.