Bayer to Appeal California Roundup Verdict

02.11.2018 -

Dewayne Johnson, a terminally ill former school groundskeeper, has accepted a California judge’s reduced award in a case he won against Monsanto in August. Johnson blames the former agricultural chemicals giant’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup for his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Monsanto was bought out by Bayer in August for $62.5 billion.

With the plaintiff’s acceptance of a total payout of $78 million, rather the initially awarded end-sum of $289 million including $39 million in punitive damages, the first-instance verdict is now considered binding. Johnson’s attorney said their client accepted the reduction only because he wanted to see justice before he dies.

In slashing the award in October, in response to a petition for review by Monsanto’s new owner Bayer, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos gave the groundskeeper until Dec. 7 to accept the lower payout or demand a new trial.

Bolanos said Johnson’s acceptance would leave the guilty verdict intact, while non-acceptance would trigger a new trial. Bayer applied for a retrial, but the motion was denied. The German group nevertheless has the right to appeal the judgment and has indicated that it will do so. 

"The court's decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal," Bayer said.

Johnson was the first cancer patient to take Monsanto to court because in California, dying plaintiffs can be granted expedited trials. Estimates of the number of cases still awaiting trial currently range as high as 8,500.

Glyphosate continues to be critically viewed by environmentalists, some scientists and many consumers. The EU voted by a thin margin in December 2017 to renew the registration of the herbicide ingredient for five more years.

Bayer and other chemical producers claim glyphosate is safe and are backed up by studies conducted by the European Food Safety Agency EFSA and the European Chemicals Agency ECHA. The German group, now world’s largest agrochemicals player, said in August it intended to become actively involved in lawsuits inherited from Monsanto over glyphosate and another controversial herbicide ingredient, dicamba.

Around 20 US farmers are suing over crop damage allegedly caused by dicamba-based seeds and herbicides manufactured by Monsanto and BASF’s US arm’s. The companies have called on a federal judge to dismiss the cases. Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim dicamba producers have “ignored facts” in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the “ecological disaster” they created.