SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco judge denied a new trial for Monsanto and upheld an earlier verdict that said the company's weed killer Roundup caused a Bay Area man's cancer. However, the judge did reduce the financial award to the man from $289.2 million to $78.5 million.
If Lee Johnson accepts this, there will be no new trial.
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Judge Suzanne Bolanos' decision came down just before 5 p.m. Monday. It hinges on the punitive damages awarded to Johnson, a Benicia School District groundskeeper and puts the ball back in his court. If he's willing to agree to less money, there will be no new trial.
The jury handed down their $289.2 million verdict in August. Then, in a stunning upset last month, Judge Bolanos filed a tentative ruling in favor of Monsanto's motion for what's called a "judgement non-withstanding the verdict" and motion for a new trial.
Largely at issue was the $250 million in punitive damages the jury awarded to Johnson, who says he developed non-Hodgkins Lymphoma after spraying Monsanto's weedkiller product Roundup and Ranger Pro in builk 30 times a year.
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In her ruling, Judge Bolanos says the punitive damages must be reduced to the maximum allowed by due process in this case -- $39, 253,000 and change, equal to the compensatory damages awarded by the jury.
He has until Friday, Dec. 7 to make his decision. Otherwise, or if he doesn't agree, Monsanto's motion for a new trial will be granted as to punitive damages only.
We interviewed jurors #4 and #11 last week. They said they awarded Johnson $250 million in punitive damages because they wanted that amount to be big enough so that Monsanto would take notice and warn other consumers. We also reached out to Judge Bolanos last week, who said she appreciated being asked to comment but could not because of the ongoing proceedings and appeal.
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