SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A San Francisco jury Friday ruled in favor of a former Benicia Unified School District groundskeeper who blamed his deadly cancer on the popular herbicide Roundup and sued its manufacturer Monsanto.
The jury ordered that Monsanto pays Lee Johnson, who is suffering from terminal Hodgkin’s lymphoma, nearly $290 million in damages. The breakdown was $819,882 for loss of past earnings; $1,403,327 in future earnings; $4 million in past non-economic losses and $33 million in future non-economic losses.
When it came to punitive damages, the jury awarded Johnson $250 million.
Johnson told the court that during his four years as the groundskeeper at the school district, he sprayed 150 gallons of Roundup 20-30 times a year. On the stand, he described what he called his careful use of the product.
“I figured if it could kill weeds it could kill me,” said Johnson. “I took it seriously. That’s why I wore anything I could to protect myself.”
He described two days where he ended up accidentally drenched in the herbicide. He called Monsanto’s consumer hotline but said the company never called back.
“They could have called him back. It’s a phone call. They could have said there’s studies that show its related to cancer, but they didn’t call him back,” said Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner.
“We obviously have a huge amount of sympathy for Mr. Johnson and for his family, as we do with anybody who has cancer,” Monsanto attorney Sandra Edwards said during the trial. “But the 40 years of science and data and experience with this product shows that it doesn’t cause cancer.”
Jurors were shown some difficult pictures. Johnson’s cancer has caused him to develop lesions over 80 percent of his body. He spoke in court about how the lesions tore into his self-confidence, embarrassed his children, and kept him from going out in public.
“One of the issues, in this case, is the jury has to decide how has cancer affected his life and I think this goes straight to the heart of it,” said Wisner.
Johnson said the case has forced him to come to terms with his mortality. The case had been expedited because of his poor health.
[H/T CBS San Francisco]