Monsanto ordered to pay $289m damages to cancer victim

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict to his case against Monsanto

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict to his case against Monsanto

Johnson regularly used glyphosate to spray fields while working as a groundskeeper.

He is among more than 5,000 similar plaintiffs across the US.

Roundup is Monsanto's leading product and glyphosate is reportedly the world's most commonly used weed killer. Jurors found Monsanto acted with "malice" and that its weed killers Roundup and the professional grade version RangerPro contributed "substantially" to Dewayne Johnson's terminal illness.

"The jury paid attention throughout this long trial and clearly understood the science and also understood Monsanto's role in trying to hide the truth", said Aimee Wagstaff, one of several attorneys around the USA who are representing other plaintiffs making similar claims to Dewayne Johnson.

His was the first case filed by a cancer patient against the agribusiness giant to reach trial.

One UN study called the chemical "probably carcinogenic", although other scientists have said it is safe to use.

Monsanto vice president Scott Partridge said hundreds of studies showed the herbicide does not cause cancer and said the company would appeal the verdict to "vigorously defend this product".

Cancer victims and families presenting cases say Monsanto knew about the ingredient's risk for years, but failed to warn buyers. The trial was expedited because his doctors said he was unlikely to survive past 2020. He worked at the time as a groundskeeper for the school district in Benicia, a suburb north of San Francisco.

Brent Wisner, a lawyer for Johnson, in a statement said jurors for the first time had seen internal company documents "proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate and specifically Roundup could cause cancer". "The company chose corporate profit and greed above humanity", said Micah Dortch of the Potts Law Firm in Dallas.

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Dortch was not directly involved in the case decided Friday, but his law firm represents more than a 100 client making related claims.

There is conflicted evidence linking glyphosate and cancer.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says Roundup's active ingredient is safe for people when used in accordance with label directions.

However, the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classified it as a "probable human carcinogen" in 2015. He now has lymphoma, which many believe is caused by exposure to Roundup. "This won't cure DeWayne Lee Johnson's cancer, but it will send a strong message to a renegade company". It awarded $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages.

Robert F. Kennedy Jnr - an environmental lawyer, son of the late U.S. senator and a member of Johnson's legal team - hugged Johnson after the verdict.

Monsanto pushed back on the verdict, vowing to appeal the case.

Roundup is one of the country's most popular weedkiller brands, while glyphosate herbicides are the most widely used herbicide in United Kingdom agriculture.

"Was Monsanto's failure to warn a substantial factor in causing harm to Johnson?"

In announcing the verdict, Bolanos read a list of questions the jury was presented regarding the safety of Roundup and whether its users could foresee any risks associated with it.

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