A California judge has rejected Monsanto’s appeal to overturn a landmark jury verdict which found that its popular herbicide causes cancer.
The judge’s ruling on Monday largely sided with Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a father of three and former school groundskeeper, who won a $289m award over the summer after alleging that his exposure to Roundup weedkiller gave him cancer. During the trial, the first of its kind, the 46-year-old also alleged that Monsanto had failed to warn him of the risks of using its product.
Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, filed an appeal of the verdict, which said the company was responsible for “negligent failure”, knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”, and had “acted with malice or oppression”.
Monsanto fought to overturn the verdict, arguing the evidence was insufficient. The San Francisco superior court judge Suzanne Bolanos had suggested in an initial written ruling this month that she was considering granting a new trial. But she ultimately denied Monsanto’s request. However, she has ruled to reduce punitive damages from $250m to $39m.
The judge said in her ruling on Monday that if Johnson did not accept the lower punitive damages, she would order a new trial for Monsanto.
Johnson’s lawyers said in a statement on Monday that the “reduction in punitive damages was unwarranted” and that his legal team, Baum Hedlund and the Miller Firm, was “weighing the options”.