San Francisco judge to order new trial for cancer-stricken man awarded $289M in Roundup case

Thursday, October 11, 2018
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In a tentative ruling, a San Francisco judge says she will order a new trial in a $289 million judgment against agribusiness giant Monsanto brought by a groundskeeper who says Roundup weed-killer caused his cancer.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A nearly $300 million verdict in a case against a pesticide giant is under review. On Wednesday, both sides in the case met in a San Francisco courtroom where the judge questioned the amount of money awarded to a man who says he got cancer from using Roundup.

The plaintiff, DeWayne Johnson, left the two-hour hearing without saying a word. Judge Suzanne Bolanos issued a tentative ruling indicating that she'll be ordering a new trial on the issue of punitive damages. The jury had awarded Johnson $250 million.

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"There's nothing that I heard that suggested the judge was persuaded otherwise on the question of punitive damages, so that tentative ruling is likely going to stand," said Prof. David Levine of UC Hastings.

Judge Bolanos said Johnson, a former groundskeeper, failed to provide clear and convincing evidence that Monsanto employees believed their product, the weed killer Roundup, caused Johnson's cancer.

Bayer, Monsanto's parent company, applauded the tentative ruling. In a statement, the company wrote, "There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous registration studies required by EPA, European and other regulators, that confirms that these products are safe when used as directed."

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Also at issue, the $39 million Johnson was awarded in compensatory damages. That too may be thrown out or reduced.

"The question is did the plaintiff have sufficient evidence to demonstrate not just that the product could cause cancer but caused this man's cancer," said Levine.

The judge will make a formal ruling after she receives written legal arguments from both sides. She gave them until the end of business on Friday.