SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A San Francisco jury Friday ruled in favor of a former Benicia Unified School District groundskeeper who claimed the chemical glyphosate – contained in the popular herbicide “Roundup” – caused his cancer.

The jury ordered that Roundup manufacturer Monsanto pay Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, who is suffering from terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, nearly $290 million in damages. The breakdown was $819,882 for loss of past earnings; $1,403,327 in future earnings; $4 million in past non-economic losses and $33 million in future non-economic losses.

When it came to punitive damages, the jury awarded Johnson $250 million of the $373 million he had sought.

“This jury found Monsanto acted with malice and oppression because they knew what they were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a member of Johnson’s legal team. “This should send a strong message to the boardroom of Monsanto.”

Johnson told the court that during his four years as the groundskeeper at the school district, he sprayed 150 gallons of Roundup 20-30 times a year. On the stand, he described what he called his careful use of the product.

“I figured if it could kill weeds it could kill me,” said Johnson. “I took it seriously. That’s why I wore anything I could to protect myself.”

He described two days where he ended up accidentally drenched in the herbicide. He called Monsanto’s consumer hotline, but said the company never called back.

“They could have called him back. It’s a phone call. They could have said there’s studies that show its related to cancer, but they didn’t call him back,” said Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner.

Following the verdict, Scott Partridge, a Monsanto vice president, issued the following statement: “We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family. Today’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews – and conclusions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world – support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer. We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others.”

Jurors were shown some difficult pictures. Johnson’s cancer has caused him to develop lesions over 80 percent of his body. He spoke in court about how the lesions tore into his self-confidence, embarrassed his children, and kept him from going out in public.

“One of the issues in this case is the jury has to decide how has cancer affected his life and I think this goes straight to the heart of it,” said Wisner.

Johnson said the case has forced him to come to terms with his mortality. The case had been expedited because of his poor health.

Comments (72)
  1. Tony Johnson says:

    Sounds to me lke the jury is in on a little kickback from Johnson. Wonder how much they’re getting paid.

  2. Manufacturers of all products should completely pull out of California and say to hell with them! Those jurors are complete whack jobs!

  3. Monsanto lost because their FAKE science was called out. And the public is eating ROUNDUP when they are eating GMOs. Too bad GMOs are not labeled so consumers can have a choice.

  4. Mark Mach says:

    A gd Kennedy. I should have known. Dead on appeal.

  5. No amount of logic and reason would have swayed this jury. Good luck Monsanto and thank you for your products.

  6. Monsanto plays word games. They know the truth. Tests of glyphosphate by itself indeed don’t show it to be a carcinogen. But the Roundup mixture does. So Monsanto makes sure the tests are done in the single ingredient and not the mixture. Expect more huge settlements as people catch in to the deception.

  7. Tommy Kiefer says:

    Monsanto and their glyphosate is killing us and the bees.

  8. Jim Harr says:

    Great idea. Let’s sue all of these companies out of business. Forget the untold millions of lives which have been saved by their scientific advances. This guy claims that he contracted cancer after he says both that he did everything he could to protect himself, and also states the contradictory claim that he was “drenched” in the stuff. So, this guy drenches himself in the stuff and the rest of us need to go back to subsistence level farming and dying before 40. Yeah. Great idea.

  9. He probably willingly sprayed it without hesitation for years. Then, when it inevitably affects HIM it’s a problem and he needs a third of a billion dollars for reasons. Sounds like a boomer.

  10. Nik Boldrini says:

    Jeez! It’s a poison! How can one who plays with poison not know he is taking a risk? A gun is deadly too. If a person shoots a gun every day for years and years and eventually shoots himself – should he sue the gun manufacturer. Good grief! Play with fire and you may get burned. He won’t get a dime. This will be endlessly repealed.

  11. Normally I’m against suing companies for their products but Monsanto is evil. They have tried to corner the seed market using patents and suing farmers that get cross pollination from their seeds etc. Read up on roundup ready crops. You’ll find out how nasty this company is.

  12. Hey Harr.. Your’re so smart – and this guy is so dumb for getting it on him. You certainly are fully aware that glyphosate is in almost everything you eat. I’m sure when you get cancer and die at 40 you’ll will just tough it out and not complain as not to impede the wondrous scientific advances of herbicide and genetically altered food.

  13. On appeal, this is sure to be knocked down as excessive damages.

  14. Monsanto’s keep’s saying it is safe enough to drink. Why don’t the Monsanto executives and scientist drink it for the public. The World Health Organization
    say’s it likely causes cancer.

  15. Polina Maire says:

    Monsanto had Implemented Genetically modified food , which originally had been tried in BABY FOOD!!!! There original studies prior to approval for implementation lasted only 2 weeks tested on lab. animals-rats .Tragically the huge tumors started to appear in week 3 and beyond and those pictures were hidden from disclosure…..Any scientists who dared to speak up were dealt with severe punishments and personal threats….Now the Pandora Box of GM foods had been open for decades causing cancer…..To make matters worse Bill Clinton signed into law a non-disclosure act preventing companies to list GM ingredients on food labels….
    farmers are no longer able to save the seeds for next year crop as seeds are infertile and are forced to buy it from MONSANTO ONLY! Not only this awful company has politicians in their pocket thus still continue to do as they wish without any State restrictions and FDA control they are committing a horrendous SIN against Humanity causing death and suffering!

  16. ljgiii333 says:

    MONSANTO-Yet another demonically evil, shockingly greedy, filthy lucre worshipping, human race betraying POS globalist corporation that has Lucifer Morningstar (a/k/a Satan), the devil himself as their CEO!!! Payday is coming you treasonous satanic a**holes; there will be NOWHERE for you rats, jackals, vultures and hyenas to run and hide from the rapidly approaching inescapable infinite light that will reveal ALL of your evil deeds done in the darkness and the terrifying wrath and eternal punishment that is coming inevitably and inexorably to and for you!!! The First and then the Second Death (eternal destruction) is right in front of you now, reaching for you with irresistible outstretched tendrils!!! Enjoy your moment in the sun…Your victims will be avenged seventy-fold against you!!! Your time is running out! Tick tock, tick tock…

  17. Steve Hollar says:

    With over 800 studies showing it’s safe, how can these nitwit jurors come to a different conclusion? Sounds like it’s purely the sympathy factor. And of course being a chemical company, they have to be bad. Morons.

  18. Another great company to be the subject of annihilating legal attacks making the lawyers rich and destroying jobs, progress and economic advancement. The same tactics used in destroying Union Carbide and making vaccine manufacturing unavailable in the US.

  19. If these stupid liberals get their way, we will get massive starvation in the world. Do these idealistic fools and their partners in the media have any idea what a world without GMOs and safe pesticides would do to overall food supply? They may feel good attacking Monsanto but have no clue on overall food production and supply.

  20. It figures that the jury was in San Francisco, a city steeped in human feces. Liberalism has no logic, only emotion and is a mental illness.