Jury awards $289 million to man in Monsanto case

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California jurors have awarded $289 million to a man close to death in the first trial over reported links between Monsanto’s popular weed killer and cancer.

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, sprayed Roundup weedkiller 20 to 30 times per year as a groundskeeper for a school district near San Francisco, his attorneys said.

Johnson testified that he wore protective clothing including a jacket, goggles and face masks but couldn’t fully protect himself from wind-blown spray.

Still, he said he had two accidents in a span of four years that left him soaked with the product, one where a spray hose became detached from a truck hauling the product and another where a backpack containing the product leaked.

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Johnson testified that two years after he was soaked with the product, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that starts in white blood cells and causes swollen lymph nodes and chest pain. The disease has resulted in lesions over much of his body and slurred his speech.

The jury found unanimously that Monsanto was to blame for Johnson’s illness because it should have known the dangers posed by the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as Roundup, and a more concentrated brand, Ranger Pro, which was the brand Johnson had used.

Monsanto issued a statement after the verdict, stating that it stands by studies that suggest Roundup does not cause cancer.

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“We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use,” Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge said.

Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial because doctors said he was near death. It could pave the way for thousands of other people claiming Monsato’s herbicide gave them non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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