A California appellate court announced that Monsanto Co. has been found liable for a former school groundskeeper’s cancer. This was the first lawsuit regard Roundup’s link to cancer to go to trial.

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, the plaintiff, was awarded $20.6 million in compensatory damages. Johnson’s counsel stated that they are considering challenging the state high court “a deep flaw” in state tort law that does not allow a plaintiff to recover for a shortened life expectancy.

Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto for $63 billion, said in a statement the jury’s verdict and damage awards are inconsistent with the evidence and the law, and the company is considering appealing to the California Supreme Court.

At the Court of Appeal, Monsanto challenged the trial court’s findings on several legal fronts and argued that the entire verdict must be thrown out because Johnson’s claims are preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

“Monsanto cannot avoid liability ‘merely because its failure to warn of a known or reasonably scientifically knowable risk conformed to an industry-wide practice of failing to provide warnings that constituted the standard of reasonable care,’ nor can it avoid liability simply because its own testing showed a result contrary to that of others in the scientific community.”

The panel rejected Monsanto’s claims that Johnson failed to prove his cancer was caused by Roundup. Also, the courts said Monsanto’s preemption arguments are foreclosed by the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Bates v. Dow Agrosciences, which held that such claims are preempted if the state labeling statutes and federal misbranding rules do not conflict.

In June, Bayer announced that it had reached a $10.9 billion settlement that would end about 75% of the current Roundup litigation, including 95% of the Roundup cases that are currently set for trial. The proposed settlement is subject to court appeal and does not include the three cases that have already been tried.

 

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