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Judge cuts punitive damages in Monsanto case to $39 million

Roundup BayerA San Francisco judge has reduced the punitive award in Monsanto’s cancer case from $250 million to $39 million.

Former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson filed a lawsuit against Bayer-owned Monsanto alleging that the company’s popular weedkiller Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The jurors awarded $289 million in punitive damages to Johnson and about $39 million in compensatory damages in August, according to CNN.

However, on October 10, Superior Court judge Suzanne Bolanos issued a tentative ruling granting Monsanto’s request for a judgment notwithstanding verdict (JNOV), where a judge in a civil case ocan overrule the jury’s decision.

According to Bolanos, the plaintiff “presented no clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression to support an award of punitive damages.” 

Last Monday, Bolanos reversed her tentative ruling and denied Monsanto’s request for a JNOV. Bolanos said the punitive award was too high and had to match the complainant’s $39 million compensatory award. Johnson will now receive a total of around $78 million instead of the original figure of $289 million.

Monsanto dewayne-johnson-verdict-exlarge-169
Photo source: CNN

Bayer bought Monsanto recently and had a mixed reaction to the judge’s recent ruling.

“The court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal. Glyphosate-based herbicides have been used safely and successfully for over four decades,” Bayer said.

Monsanto dewayne-johnson-hand-exlarge-169
Photo source: CNN

CNN reported that Johnson’s doctor said he had lesions over 80 per cent of his body. Still Monsanto countered that there’s no sufficient evidence Roundup caused his cancer. 

Monsanto requested a new trial but the judge said that this will be denied if Johnson accepts the smaller punitive award. There are more than 4,000 similar cases awaiting trial in federal or state courts. 

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