Judge may overrule jury’s decision in Monsanto Roundup case

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson walks toward court during a brief break as the Monsanto trial continues in San Francisco California

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson walks toward court during a brief break as the Monsanto trial continues in San Francisco California

Bayer won a tentative ruling that could slash most of the $289 million dollar award in the California trial regarding claims that glyphosate in Roundup causes cancer. A jury in August awarded Johnson $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.

The California Superior Court Judge says even if she doesn't set aside the punitive damages, she is likely to grant a new trial "on the grounds of insufficiency of the evidence to justify the award for punitive damages". She said the evidence wasn't there to award $250 million in punitive damages.

Johnson, a California groundskeeper diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - a cancer that affects white blood cells - says he repeatedly used a professional form of Roundup while working at a school in Benicia, California.

Lawyers for both sides are arguing in court Wednesday whether the improper arguments entitled Monsanto to a new trial.

Monsanto had argued ahead of the hearing that Johnson failed to prove that Roundup or similar herbicides caused his lymphoma, and presented no evidence that Monsanto executives were malicious in marketing it.

She said plaintiff DeWayne Johnson failed to produce "clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression" by Monsanto.

Plaintiffs responded with opposition papers on October 1.

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Johnson's attorneys have contended that the evidence at trial was "more than sufficient to support an inference that Johnson's cancer was caused by his exposure to Monsanto's herbicides". Monsanto's efforts to test its products, she writes, also are "not consistent with a finding of conscious disregard".

Bolanos tentatively granted Monsanto's request for a JNOV - a judgment notwithstanding verdict. The judge also suggested she may reduce the rest of the award by $31 million if she upholds the jury's decision that Monsanto's weed-killer caused DeWayne Johnson's cancer.

The tentative order told lawyers to be prepared at the hearing to discuss other arguments, including those addressing liability.

Johnson sat nearby as his lawyers countered that jurors came to a lawful verdict based on what was presented at trial, and that Bolanos should deny Monsanto's motions.

The San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto to pay $250 million in punitive damages along with compensatory damages and other costs, bringing the total figure to almost $290 million.

"If the damages number isn't significant enough, champagne corks will pop", Wisner said of the Monsanto board.

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