The trial of a California school groundskeeper versus one of the largest, most secretive corporations in the world has resulted in a $289 million verdict in his favor. A California jury made the decision earlier this month and it could have drastic repercussions for future trials over the possible harms caused by Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.
Dewayne Johnson’s case was unique in that it not only sought to create a direct link between his terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis and Roundup, but it also attacked the sourcing of the scientific evidence that Monsanto has used time and again as a cornerstone of its defense of glyphosate and Roundup. At issue is the notion that while Monsanto claims that there is no shortage of scientific studies and evidence to show that these products are safe, no one has – to this point – been permitted to question the source of those studies, where the funding came from, and how the research might have been influenced.
This is important because, in many cases, a lot of the answers to those questions might have been Monsanto themselves. The corporation has a long history of trying to shape the public discourse over its products and that practice was put under a microscope in Johnson’s trial.
In the end, the jury sided with the 46-year-old husband and father of two. And, while his life expectancy has been tragically cut short by a product that has now been ruled to be carcinogenic and directly related to the disease that will likely take his life, he can rest well knowing that his family will be well-cared for. “He’s going to live the rest of that time in extreme comfort,” his attorney said.
As expected, Monsanto wasted no time in continuing its defense of Roundup after the trial and continued to cite studies evangelizing its safety. But this one verdict might just be a crack in a dam that could have huge implications for the company if it bursts. Over 4,000 Roundup lawsuits are awaiting their days in state courts across the country. And with one jury finding fault with the company to the sum of $250 million in punitive damages alone, Dewayne’s Johnson’s name; regardless of how long he has left among us, will live on as the groundskeeper who took on a giant – and won.