The historic $250 million punitive damage verdict awarded against Monsanto may be overturned due to insufficient proof the company acted with malice.

Superior Court Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos granted a tentative ruling that would overturn a historic $250 million punitive damages verdict awarded against Monsanto. Monsanto is accused of marketing its weedkiller Roundup when the company was aware that the active ingredient glyphosate is highly carcinogenic.

DeWayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, is currently dying of lymphoma after using Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup at his summer job as a groundskeeper. Johnson’s lawyers allege Monsanto failed to warn Roundup’s users that the herbicide is cancer-causing even though Monsanto knew it was a carcinogenic product.

Judge Bolanos, however, expressed uncertainty that Monsanto acted with malice by not warning Johnson of the potential dangers of Roundup – a requirement for a punitive damages award. She said there is no sufficient evidence to back up the claim of malice.

Judge May Overturn the Jury’s Verdict and Order a New Trial for Monsanto

A 12-member jury found Monsanto guilty of the failure to warn users that Roundup is dangerous, thereby causing Johnson to develop cancer. The jury ordered the Bayer-owned agrochemical company to pay Johnson $289 million in damages, $33 million of which was awarded for reduced life expectancy. Bolanos is reportedly considering lowering the reduced life expectancy payout to $9 million.

Monsanto’s lawyers immediately contested the ruling and filed appeals to either overturn the verdict of $289 million, reduce the punitive damages, or obtain a new trial.

In her written ruling, Bolanos disclosed that in the event that she fails to vacate the verdict for punitive damages, then she may order a new trial for damages. Monsanto expressed satisfaction with the tentative ruling.

“The jury’s verdict was wholly at odds with over 40 years of real-world use, an extensive body of scientific data and analysis, including in-depth reviews by regulatory authorities in the U.S. and EU, and approvals in 160 countries, which support the conclusion that glyphosate-based herbicides are safe when used as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic,” Bayer wrote.

Bolanos Accepted the Motions Filed By Both Parties with No Indication Of When to Rule On Them

U.S. and EU regulators have said that glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient, is safe for human use. But the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled otherwise, saying it is probably carcinogenic. Based on this, Johnson’s legal team said Monsanto should have put a cancer warning label on Roundup and instruct users on wearing protective clothing during use.

Monsanto’s lawyers disagreed and argued in the Johnson case that cancer takes three years to develop and since Johnson only used Roundup for one summer before falling ill in the fall, the weedkiller could not have caused his cancer. Ultimately a 12-person jury unanimously sided with Johnson, awarding the unprecedented $289 million verdict.

Johnson’s lawyers – Michael Miller of The Miller Firm, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, and Michael Baum also of Aristei Goldman all urge Judge Bolanos to ratify the jury’s punitive damages verdict. Bolanos will decide soon, but has not indicated when she will rule on ratifying or overturning the verdict.

 

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