Chemical in Monsanto weed killers said to cause terminal illness. $289M. San Francisco County.


Battle of expert witnesses over whether Monsanto's products cause cancer and what the company knew but did not warn of.

The Case

  • Case Name: Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company
  • Court and Case Number: San Francisco Superior Court of California / CGC-16-550128
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, August 10, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, January 28, 2016
  • Type of Case: Products Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Suzanne R. Bolanos
  • Plaintiffs:
    Dewayne "Lee" Johnson
  • Defendants:
    Monsanto Company
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $289,253,209
  • Economic Damages:

    Past and future economic loss: $2,253,209

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past non-economic damages: $4,000,000

    Future non-economic loss: $33,000,000

  • Punitive Damages:

    $ 250,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: Almost 8 weeks.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: Almost 3 days.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0 on all, except 11-1 on amount of punitive damages.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: In October 2018, the trial court judge issued a remittitur of punitive damages to $40,000,000, offering plaintiff a choice of a new trial if remittitur not accepted.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman by R. Brent Wisner, Pedram Esfandiary and Michael L. Baum, Los Angeles.

    The Miller Firm by David J. Dickens, Timothy Litzenburg and Jeffrey Travers, Orange, VA.

    Audet & Partners, LLP by Mark Burton, San Francisco.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Hollingsworth LLP by Kirby T. Griffis, Washington, DC.

    Farella Braun + Martel by Sandra A. Edwards, San Francisco.

    Winston & Strawn by George C. Lombardi and James L. Hilmert, Chicago, IL.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Onaopemipo Ofodile, M.D., dermatology, Atlanta, GA.

    Chadi Nabhan, M.D., hematology, oncology, Chicago, IL.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Christopher Portier, Ph.D., toxicology, Thun,Switzerland.

    Alfred Neugut, M.D., Ph.D., oncology and epidemiology, New York, NY.

    William R. Sawyer, Ph.D., toxicology, Sanibel, FL.

    Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., agronomy and toxicology, Portland, OR.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Kassim Al-Khatib, Ph.D., weed science, Sacramento.

    Lorelei Mucci, Sc.D., epidemiology, Boston, MA.

    Warren Foster, Ph.D., veterinary obstetrics and gynecology, Hamilton, ON, Canada.

    Timothy Kuzel, M.D., hematology and oncology, Chicago, IL.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    In 2012, plaintiff Lee Johnson was employed by a school district as a pesticide applicator, primarily spraying Monsanto's Roundup Pro and Ranger Pro.

    In September of 2015, plaintiff was diagnosed with mycosis fungoides (non-Hodgkin lymphoma with large cell transformation).

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That plaintiff's non-Hodgkin lymphoma was caused by exposure to Monsanto's Roundup Pro and Ranger Pro herbicides.

    Plaintiff contended that Monsanto knew or had reason to know that its Roundup® products were defective and were inherently dangerous and unsafe when used in the manner instructed and provided by Monsanto; that Monsanto did not sufficiently test, investigate, or study its Roundup® products and, specifically, the active ingredient glyphosate; that  Monsanto knew or should have known at the time of marketing its Roundup® products that exposure to Roundup®, and specifically, its active ingredient glyphosate, could result in cancer and other severe illnesses and injuries; that Monsanto did not conduct adequate post-marketing surveillance of its Roundup® products; that Monsanto could have employed safer alternative designs and formulations; that information Monsanto did provide failed to contain relevant warnings, hazards, and precautions that would have enabled those exposed, such as Mr. Johnson, to utilize the products safely and with adequate protection.

    Instead, Monsanto disseminated information that was inaccurate, false, and misleading and which failed to communicate accurately or adequately the comparative severity, duration, and extent of the risk of injuries associated with use of and/or exposure to Roundup® and glyphosate; continued to aggressively promote the efficacy of its products, even after it knew or should have known of the unreasonable risks from use or exposure; and concealed, downplayed, or otherwise suppressed, through aggressive marketing and promotion, any information or research about the risks and dangers of exposure to Roundup® and glyphosate;that Monsanto systematically suppressed or downplayed contrary evidence about the risks, incidence and prevalence of the side effects of Roundup® and glyphosate-containing products; that Monsanto continued the manufacture and sale of its products with the knowledge that the products were unreasonably unsafe and dangerous.

    The complaint cites studies concluding that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® and Ranger Pro, can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma and a host of other serious health issues. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (“IARC”) classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen” based on a review of the available literature which included over 1,000 studies.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That plaintiff's non-Hodgkin lymphoma was not caused by exposure to Monsanto's Roundup and Ranger Pro herbicides.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Mycosis Fungoides (non-Hodgkin lymphoma with large cell transformation).

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $6,000,000

Additional Notes

This trial was the first of more than 8,000 U.S. cases alleging that Monsanto's glysophate-based weed-killing products cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma.