A man with just weeks to live has been awarded US$289million (AU$396million) in damages after a jury ruled a popular weed killer contributed to his cancer.
According to multiple reports, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won the unprecedented case on Friday, and now plans to leave the money to his family after he’s gone.
The jury determined that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer not only contributed to his cancer, but the company also failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure.
Speaking at a press conference following the verdict, Johnson thanked his wife Araceli and their children for their support, the Mail Online reports.
“It’s taken a lot of prayer, I’ve taken energy from a lot of people. I’m glad to be here to help. Hopefully this thing will start to get the attention it needs. This case is way bigger than me,” he reportedly said.
His wife wasn’t there as Johnson’s lawyer explained she now works two jobs to make ends meet. She was working at the time of the press conference. Meanwhile, the lawyer added that Johnson now hopes to spend the money on enjoying quality time with his family.
He was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a cancer that starts in the white blood cells – in August 2014, having previously sprayed hundreds of gallons of Roundup. He worked at the time as a groundskeeper for the school district in Benicia, a suburb north of San Francisco.
The Guardian reports that during the month-long trial, Johnson’s lawyers argued that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and hid potential health risks. He was the first person to claim Roundup had given him cancer.
Monsanto now reportedly intends to appeal the ruling.
“We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that … Roundup could cause cancer,” Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement, according to the news outlet.
He added that the verdict sent a “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits”.
Meanwhile, Johnson told reporters he now hopes the shock verdict will encourage others to pursue their own lawsuits against the company.
The dispute centred on glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide. It’s registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops.
Scott Partridge, the vice-president of Monsanto, reportedly released a statement after the verdict insisting that “glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer”. He added: “We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others.”