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California judge mulls new trial in $289M Roundup award

California judge mulls new trial in $289M Roundup award

October 11th, 2018 in National News

Plaintiff DeWayne Johnson, a school groundskeeper who says Roundup weed-killer caused his cancer, leaves a courtroom in San Francisco, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. A San Francisco judge said in a tentative ruling Wednesday that she would order a new trial in a $289 million judgment against agribusiness giant Monsanto brought by Johnson. (AP Photo/Paul Elias)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco judge said Wednesday she is considering tossing out the lion’s share of the $289 million judgment against agribusiness giant Monsanto and ordering a new trial over whether the company’s weed-killer caused a groundskeeper’s cancer.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos didn’t formally rule on any issues after a two-hour hearing to consider Monsanto’s demand to toss out the entire jury verdict in the first of thousands of similar cases across the country to go to trial.

The San Francisco jury in August said Monsanto knew — or should have known — its best-selling Roundup weed-killer causes cancer and hit the company with $250 million in punitive damages, which are designed to punish companies who act recklessly. The jury also awarded DeWayne Johnson $33 million in so-called “pain-and-suffering” damages and $6 million in actual damages.

But Bolanos issued a written tentative ruling ahead of the hearing saying she intended to strike down the punitive damages and schedule a new trial on that issue.

During the hearing, Bolanos also said she was troubled by the $33 million in “non-economic” pain-and-suffering damages the jury awarded. Johnson’s lawyer argued for $1 million a year for the next 33 years. But Monsanto’s lawyers argued Johnson is expected to live for two more years — an argument that appeared to resonate with Bolanos who mulled out loud about fashioning an order reducing the entire verdict to under $9 million.

Ultimately, Bolanos ordered lawyers to submit written argument by Friday and said she would rule after that.

Johnson and his lawyers left court without comment. So did Monsanto’s legal team.

However, Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto in June, said it agreed with the judge and “continues to believe that the evidence at trial does not support the verdict and the damage awards.”