In a move that surprises absolutely no one, Monsanto has filed to have the $289 million award it was ordered to pay California school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson thrown out. The award came after a jury found that glyphosate present in the company’s Roundup product directly caused Mr. Johnson to develop a case of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His doctors fear that the cancer will kill the husband and father of two before the year 2020.
Monsanto’s attorneys are basing their claim on the notion that Johnson never actually proved that Roundup caused his disease and no evidence was presented to back up his claim that Monsanto executives were malicious in how they were marketing Roundup to the public.
The corporation has repeatedly noted that hundreds of studies have found that glyphosate is not a hazardous chemical. Indeed, history shows us that the frequent citation of scientific studies over the safety of glyphosate and Roundup is a key component of Monsanto’s defense of their product. It is also, however, a key component of Johnson’s case. Johnson’s attorneys were the first to be allowed to shine a spotlight on the lengths that Monsanto routinely goes to shape the public and scientific discourse over its products, including Roundup, and to ask juries to question the source of those studies as a result.
Johnson’s award, and the financial security his family will likely depend on after his passing, now rests with San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos. Monsanto has asked Judge Bolanos to completely override the previous jury’s decision and rule in the corporation’s favor or to order a new trial in the matter; undoubtedly in an attempt to try to suppress some of the information that led to the original verdict. Judge Bolanos can also reduce the amount awarded to Johnson. While $39 million of the award was compensatory in nature, the remaining $250 million was awarded punitively and can be much easier for a judge to adjust.