A school groundskeeper who sued Monsanto over claims that using the company’s herbicides Roundup and Ranger Pro gave him terminal cancer was awarded $289 million in a landmark trial against the agriculture products giant, which had denied the potential link for decades.
The California jury that handed down the verdict Aug. 10 deliberated three days, ultimately finding that Monsanto’s herbicides were the likely cause of plaintiff DeWayne “Lee” Johnson’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Johnson argued that he thought using the products was safe because there were no warnings on the products’ labels to indicate otherwise.
Johnson reported that as a groundskeeper for a school district he would spray 150 gallons of Ranger Pro each day on five school campuses and sports fields, up to 30 times a year. Johnson claimed that a 2013 accident left him drenched in the herbicide. Afterward he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Even after his diagnosis, he continued to work with the chemicals. But after a second accident left him soaked in the herbicide, he says he repeatedly called Monsanto to find out if the herbicides were a hazard to his health, but the company refused to return his calls.
He later found out that there were studies dating back to at least the 1990s that would have indicated to Monsanto that its herbicides weren’t safe. Yet, the company failed to warn groundskeepers, landscapers, agriculturists, and general consumers that using the product could cause cancer.
The jury awarded Johnson $29.25 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. The award includes $37 million for each year the 49-year-old will lose in life due the disease.