$289 Million Judgment Against Monsanto In Doubt After Ruling

Images of a display of Round-up, the herbicide which made Monsanto a successful force in the agribusiness inside Monsanto headquarters in St Louis, Missouri, May 21, 2009.
Brent Stirton / Getty Images

Monsanto may get out from under a $289 million state jury judgment against it, after a judge granted a ruling that could overturn the decision or lead to a new trial, CNN reported Wednesday.

Two months ago, a San Francisco Superior Court jury handed down the massive judgment against the pesticides company, siding with a former school groundskeeper who charged in civil court that Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed killer caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the broadcaster stated.

Dewayne Johnson was just the first of more than 4,000 individuals suffering from cancer to make similar claims against the chemical giant. The jury gave Johnson $250 million in punitive damages and another $39 million for lost wages, CNN stated.

But on Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos tentatively granted Monsanto what is called a judgment notwithstanding verdict ruling — hinting that she could overrule the jury decision, the network wrote.

Bolanos claimed that Johnson’s attorneys “presented no clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression to support an award of punitive damages,” CNN wrote.

Attorneys for both sides will have until Friday to give their responses to her decision before making a final ruling, the broadcaster said. Bolanos added that “the Court would grant a new trial on the grounds of insufficiency of the evidence to justify the award for punitive damages” if evidence proves inconclusive.

Bayer AG — which is in the middle of a $63 billion purchase of Monsanto — charged that numerous studies proves that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup that has been the target of the civil lawsuits, does not cause cancer, CNN relayed.

The Bayer Pharma AG building stands on Aug. 29 in Berlin, Germany.
The Bayer Pharma AG building stands on Aug. 29 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry / Getty Images

“The jury’s verdict was wholly at odds with over 40 years of real-world use, an extensive body of scientific data and analysis, including in-depth reviews by regulatory authorities in the U.S. and EU, and approvals in 160 countries, which support the conclusion that glyphosate-based herbicides are safe when used as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic,” Bayer said in a statement per CNN.

Timothy Litzenburg — of the firm which represented Johnson — said that his client is still expecting $39 million but “hasn’t seen a dime,” because that award is being appealed by Monsanto as well, according to CNN.

Bloomberg wrote that the Bayer-Monsanto merger is the last of three mega-deals that could entirely restructure the seeds and pesticides marketplace worldwide. DuPont Co. merged with Dow Chemical Co. in 2017, while China National Chemical Corp. acquired Syngenta AG, the news service stated.

Bloomberg stated that roughly 8,700 people are currently seeking damages over the use of glyphosate in consumer products, a total that has risen over the past several months.