Jurors will begin deliberations today in the case of Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co. following a heated showdown of closing arguments from attorneys on both sides. The deliberations are expected to last one to two days.
The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma four years ago, claims Monsanto hid evidence that the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, caused his cancer. The case is the first of hundreds of similar lawsuits to go to trial, under a California law that expedites legal cases filed by terminally ill plaintiffs.
Reports from inside the courtroom highlight the difficulty of being a juror in this case, where attorneys for both the plaintiff and Monsanto insist that science is on their side.
“So much science, so much spin—who will the jurors believe?” tweeted Carey Gillam, research director of U.S. Right to Know and author of “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.”
Gotta be hard to be a juror in #Rounduptrial - after scathing closing citing science supporting plaintiff's case, @MonsantoCo defense lawyer brings equal heat, says @EPA scientific findings right and @IARCWHO is wrong; So much science, so much spin - who will the jurors believe?— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018
In closing arguments, which followed four weeks of testimony, an attorney for plaintiff Johnson accused Monsanto of denying Johnson the right to have a choice about his health and the health of his children when he used Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.
“Today is their day of reckoning!” said Johnson’s attorney.
Closing arguments in #Monsanto trial going on now. Atty. representing Dewayne (Lee) Johnson, Bay Area man dying of cancer, comes out swinging: "Monsanto denied Mr. Johnson *choice about his health" and health of children where he used Round Up."Today is their day of reckoning!"— Sam Brock (@SamNBCBayArea) August 7, 2018
“My client deserves the truth,” Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner told the jurors. “The evidence is actually overwhelming. Other than hiding behind the EPA, Monsanto has quite literally no defense.”
"My client deserves the truth," says Lee Johnson attorney Brent Wisner to jurors in #Rounduptrial "The evidence is actually overwhelming. Other than hiding behind the @EPA @MonsantoCo has quite literally no defense." And boom, it's done. Time for jury to deliberate.— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018
In a blistering closing that prompted objections from Monsanto, plaintiff's lawyer notes @MonsantoCo "didn’t bring a single human being from the company to look into your eyes and say why they did what they did.”— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018
He speculates they feared committing perjury. #Rounduptrial
Johnson’s attorneys asked the jury to penalize Monsanto for $373 million in damages, or the interest accrued on their cash on-hand in the years since Johnson developed cancer. “That’s a number that makes people change their ways,” said one of Johnson’s attorneys.
And stakes just elevated after attorney for Lee Johnson asks jury to penalize #Monsanto *$373 million* in damages, or interest of their cash on-hand in yrs. since Johnson developed cancer. “That’s a number that makes people change their way.” #MonsantoTrial— Sam Brock (@SamNBCBayArea) August 7, 2018
The amount includes $2.53 million in damages for lost wages, medical expenses and other costs; $37 million in damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress; and $1 million for each year of Johnson’s life expectancy.
Total sought for cancer victim Lee Johnson: $2.25 million in economic damages; $37 million in non-economic; and $373 million in punitive. "Your verdict will be heard around the world," @baumhedlund attorney tells jury in @MonsantoCo #Rounduptrial https://t.co/6dnIkMLrpk— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018
“I wish we didn’t have to do this,” atty Brent Wisner lays out compensatory & non-economic damages (physical pain, suffering, loss of quality of life) for Lee Johnson, dying of cancer:— Sam Brock (@SamNBCBayArea) August 7, 2018
$39, 253,209.23. Not just abt Johnson but “discouraging behavior in future.” #MonsantoTrial
In closing arguments attorneys for Monsanto tried to discredit the expert witnesses who testified on Johnson’s behalf, insisting that the “real experts” in the trial are those who side with Monsanto and say glyphosate does not cause cancer.
Monsanto attorneys also told the jury that the cause of plaintiff Johnson’s cancer is unknown.
In closing, @MonsantoCo attorney tells jury the "real experts" in #Rounduptrial are those who side with the company and say glyphosate doesn't cause cancer. Takes particular swipes at plaintiffs expert Dr. Portier as a "partisan," says jury should consider his "credibility."— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018
In closing argument of #Rounduptrial @MonsantoCo attorney tells jury that epidemiology shows "overwhelming" evidence that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer; should not let plaintiff's attorney persuade them, says "the facts are what should lead you in this case"— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018
The landmark case has kept Monsanto and its bad reputation in the public eye as the company grows increasingly desperate to defend its flagship Roundup weedkiller from human and environmental health concerns.
On August 7, a federal judge in Brazil suspended the use of glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. The judge ruled that new products containing glyphosate could not be registered in the country, and any existing registrations would be suspended for the next 30 days pending a toxicology review by the government.
The move is expected to hit Monsanto where it hurts. Monsanto is deeply invested in Brazil where its glyphosate-resistant genetically modified soybeans are planted on a large-scale. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soybeans.