LOS ANGELES, Aug. 27, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- In one of the biggest verdicts of its kind, a California jury on Aug. 10 ordered agribusiness giant Monsanto to pay $289 million to a terminally ill man for contributing to his cancer.
Dewayne Johnson, 46 and father of two, had been a groundskeeper for a school district near San Francisco, where he was repeatedly exposed over several years to Monsanto's bestselling weedkiller, Roundup. He eventually sued, with his doctors and attorneys claiming that Roundup had contributed to his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
A jury for the Superior Court of California in San Francisco agreed, delivering a landmark verdict that is likely to bolster the hundreds of other Roundup lawsuits already pending against Monsanto. Johnson's case had been pushed to the head of the line owing to his dire health condition.
"This case is way bigger than me," Johnson said at a press conference after the verdict was announced. Legal experts agreed, saying that, with thousands of workers having been exposed to Roundup in the course of their jobs, there will be more lawsuits against Monsanto to come.
Carney Shegerian, head of the Los Angeles employment law firm Shegerian & Associates, noted that Roundup exposure is an issue facing workers in multiple industries, from farm laborers to landscapers. He stressed that many workers who have been exposed to Roundup may not even realize their health is at risk.
"The manufacturer said it was safe," Shegerian said. "Your employer may have told you the same thing. But as this verdict shows, it's clearly not. An award this big isn't about paying Mr. Johnson's medical bills or providing for his family. It is intended to send a national message that Roundup poses a hazard to the health of those who work with it. This is a wakeup call."
Monsanto has come under increasing criticism for its business practices and the manipulation of facts surrounding its products. In particular the company has been attacked for its many paid scientific studies, which have supported the safety of its products, and for its army of lobbyists, who have successfully influenced government policy to create a more permissive regulatory environment for Monsanto to do as it pleases.
"This is what happens when companies are not held accountable," said Shegerian. "We have seen it over and over throughout history, from the black lungs of coal miners, to the cancers of watchmakers who were required to use radioactive paint, and now with the world's most popular weedkiller."
He continued, "Without accountability, a company will always claim that its products are safe, but behind these claims there have been many public health catastrophes, and the victims are always ordinary people who didn't know any better or who had no choice but to use the products they were told to use."
Now, with a $289 million headwind blowing against it, it would appear that Monsanto is coming to a moment of accountability. Shegerian emphasized the point that, in this lawsuit, the burden of proof was entirely on Johnson to show that Monsanto had contributed to his cancer, yet once the evidence was on the table the jury overwhelmingly agreed.
"If you worked with Roundup, get your health checked out," Shegerian said. "And if your employer has required you to use Roundup at work, or continues to require you to use it now, or if you have developed health problems that you think may be related to Roundup, speak to an attorney and get a sense of what your rights are."
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California and with offices in San Diego, San Francisco, & New York, Shegerian & Associates is a law firm specializing in protecting the rights of employees who have been wronged by their employers. Carney Shegerian, Trial Lawyer of the Year Award winner for 2013, has won 80 jury trials in his career, including nearly 40 seven-figure verdicts. Shegerian & Associates is passionately dedicated to serving the needs of its clients. For more information about the firm, visit www.ShegerianLaw.com.
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SOURCE Shegerian & Associates, Inc.