In a milestone case expected to be the first of many, a jury unanimously awarded a 46-year-old man $289 million in a lawsuit filed against Monsanto Company. Monsanto is the maker of farming products and perhaps best known for developing Roundup, a popular weed killer used for decades on crops, lawns, golf courses, and gardens all over the world. The plaintiff, 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson, was diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that kills approximately 20,000 people in the U.S. each year. The jury ruled that Johnson’s years as a school groundskeeper using Roundup and Ranger Pro, a similar herbicide, on a daily basis contributed to his cancer. As Providence, RI personal injury attorneys, Tapalian Law has heard a lot of exchanges surrounding this landmark product liability lawsuit. Rhode Islanders, and others across the country, are questioning if they too could unknowingly be exposed to potentially cancer-causing chemicals in their everyday lives.
Potential Cancer-Causing Chemical in Roundup
The potentially cancer-causing chemical at the forefront of the lawsuit is glyphosate. Glyphosate is an active ingredient in both Roundup and Ranger Pro. Numerous studies claim a link between glyphosate and several cancers, the most thoroughly researched being non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), released a report that categorized glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Some countries are attempting to ban glyphosate products while the state of California has added a label to glyphosate products warning they contain a chemical known to cause cancer.
Jurors Decision in Roundup Lawsuit
The jurors in Johnson’s Roundup lawsuit were not asked to determine whether or not glyphosate causes cancer. Rather, the question asked of them was whether the chemical produces any harm and if Monsanto had knowledge of this but failed to warn consumers. Questions included:
- Was Ranger Pro a substantial factor in causing harm to Mr. Johnson?
- Did Ranger Pro have potential risks that were known or knowable in light of the scientific knowledge that was generally accepted in the scientific community at the time of its manufacture, distribution, or sale?
- Did Monsanto fail to warn of the potential risks?
- Was the lack of sufficient warnings a substantial factor in causing harm to Mr. Johnson?
Johnson’s lawyers claimed that not only was their client exposed to glyphosate on a regular basis but that on two occasions he was accidentally soaked in the chemical, despite wearing protective gear. After one of these incidents, Johnson developed a rash and contacted Monsanto but was never told the chemical could cause cancer. There is a paper trail at Monsanto showing a record of the conversation with Johnson and the lack of a subsequent follow up phone call on the part of Monsanto. His lawyers argued that Monsanto executives were aware of potential harms concerning the chemical but attempted to cover up the concerns by manipulating scientific research to prevent official rulings showing glyphosate as a carcinogen. The jury found that Monsanto acted with “malice and oppression because they knew what they were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life”.
Monsanto Plans to Appeal the $289 Million Award
Monsanto plans to appeal the decision and continues to maintain that Roundup is safe and has been for over 40-years. The company cites “more than 800 scientific studies and reviews” showing no link to cancer. Monsanto attorneys also deny their product is responsible for Johnson’s cancer and argue that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma “takes years to develop” and therefore Johnson must have developed the disease prior to working with the chemical on a daily basis as a groundskeeper.
More Roundup Cancer Lawsuits to Follow
The landmark lawsuit will likely open up a wealth of other cancer lawsuits against Monsanto (now owned by Bayer Group, who finalized an acquisition of Monsanto in June). Thousands of like-minded lawsuits are currently making their way through the courts all over the U.S., but Johnson’s lawsuit was the first to make it to trial. Johnson’s legal team was able to move forward more quickly in the courts due to the extent of his disease and expected death. Since Bayer acquired Monsanto, it announced plans to retire the Monsanto brand but will continue to sell the chemicals created by the company. It will also face the criticism of environmentalists who continue to look for better regulation of chemical pesticides in addition to what could amount to billions in potential future lawsuits.
Contact a Rhode Island Product Liability Attorney at Tapalian Law
This monumental, and eye-opening, product liability lawsuit may leave many in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and all over the U.S. wondering if they too could have been exposed to glyphosate, the potentially cancer-causing chemical in Roundup. The risk of cancer associated with Roundup is cumulative and those most at risk of developing a linked cancer use the weed killer in their everyday jobs such as farmers, landscapers, and groundskeepers. Those using it on occasion for home use in their yards most likely will not incur cancer from Roundup. Attorney David Tapalian is an experienced personal injury lawyer based in Providence, RI, who provides a free legal consultation to those wondering if they have a potential injury case. Tapalian Law has helped personal injury clients all over Rhode Island including Providence, Warwick, Cranston, and East Providence, get awarded compensation for their damages. Our Massachusetts personal injury law firm also helps clients in Attleboro, Seekonk, Taunton, and all over Massachusetts, gain compensation for their losses. Contact Tapalian Law today at 401-552-5000, or email us.