At­tor­neys: Roundup case could aid oth­ers

The Arizona Republic - - NEWS - Paul Elias

SAN FRAN­CISCO – A jury’s $289 mil­lion award to a for­mer school groundskeeper who said Mon­santo’s Roundup left him dy­ing of can­cer will bol­ster thou­sands of pend­ing cases and open the door for count­less peo­ple who blame their suf­fer­ing on the weed killer, the man’s lawyers said.

“I’m glad to be here to be able to help in a cause that’s way big­ger than me,” De­wayne John­son said Fri­day af­ter the ver­dict was an­nounced.

John­son, 46, al­leges that heavy con­tact with the her­bi­cide caused his nonHodgkin’s lym­phoma he de­vel­oped in 2014. The state Su­pe­rior Court jury agreed that Roundup con­trib­uted to John­son’s can­cer and that Mon­santo should have pro­vided a la­bel warn­ing of the po­ten­tial health haz­ard.

His was the first case filed by a can­cer pa­tient against the agribusi­ness gi­ant to reach trial. It was ex­pe­dited be­cause court fil­ings in­di­cated that John­son was dy­ing. His vic­tory may set the prece­dent for many oth­ers.

“A unan­i­mous jury in San Fran­cisco has told Mon­santo: ‘Enough. You did some­thing wrong and now you have to pay,’ ” said Brent Wis­ner, John­son’s lead trial lawyer. “There’s 4,000 other cases filed around the United States and there are count­less thou­sands of other peo­ple out there who are suf­fer­ing from can­cer be­cause Mon­santo didn’t give them a choice . ... We now have a way for­ward.”

Mon­santo has de­nied a link between the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent in Roundup – glyphosate – and can­cer, say­ing hun­dreds of stud­ies have es­tab­lished that glyphosate is safe. Mon­santo spokesman Scott Par­tridge said two gov­ern­ment agen­cies have con­cluded that Roundup does not cause can­cer and that the com­pany will ap­peal.

John­son used Roundup and a sim­i­lar prod­uct, Ranger Pro, as a pest con­trol man­ager at a San Fran­cisco Bay Area school dis­trict, his lawyers said. He sprayed large quan­ti­ties from a 50gal­lon tank at­tached to a truck, and dur­ing gusty winds, the prod­uct would cover his face, said Brent Wis­ner, one of his at­tor­neys. Once, when a hose broke, the weed killer soaked his en­tire body.

John­son con­tacted the com­pany af­ter de­vel­op­ing a rash but was not told it could cause can­cer, Wis­ner said.

JOSH EDEL­SON/POOL PHOTO VIA AP

Plain­tiff De­wayne John­son, fac­ing cam­era, hugs one of his lawyers af­ter a San Fran­cisco jury awarded him $289 mil­lion Fri­day.

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