SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A Benicia man who claims his cancer was caused by a popular weed killer is finally getting his day in court.

It is the first case of its kind against chemical company Monsanto to go to trial, accusing the company of covering up the cancer-risk linked to its product, Roundup.

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The case is brought by 46-year-old Lee Johnson. He is dying of cancer and claims the ingredient in the weed killer Roundup made him sick.

Johnson worked for the Benicia Unified School District as a groundskeeper and frequently used Roundup on the job. A couple years after working at the district, he developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Now lesions cover 80 percent of his body. Doctors say he is nearing death.

Johnson is also accusing the company of covering up the potential dangers of chemicals in the weed killer.

California has classified the herbicide glyphosate — the principle active ingredient used in Roundup — as a carcinogen.

Johnson’s lawyer says it is a David and Goliath case, but is glad his client is fighting the company in court.

“Monsanto will tell you, they’ll stipulate they have never warned anyone about it. Mr. Johnson made safety decisions based on the label, and he unfortunately has this very aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said attorney for plaintiff Timothy Litzenburg.

But Monsanto denied claims to any link between Roundup and cancer in a statement,

“More than 800 scientific studies, the U.S. EPA, the National Institutes of Health and regulators around the world have concluded that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer,” the statement read. “We have empathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the scientific evidence clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause.”

While Monsanto is on trial, so is the truth about glyphosate.

The EPA says it likely does not cause cancer, while the state of California says it is carcinogenic.

Lawyers on both sides offered up conflicting studies, imploring reporters to take them as fact.

The outcome of this case could have broad implications for hundreds of cases. The lawyer for Johnson says he is also representing some 2,000 other cancer patients who have used Roundup extensively.

Johnson’s lawyers hope he will be able to see the outcome.

“He’s hung with us. He’s hung tight the whole way. It’s day to day for him, but he’s here today. I’m glad and I hope he’s here to hear the verdict,” said Litzenburg.

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