Judge overrules jury who awarded terminally ill man $289 million in case against Monsanto, offering $78 million instead
Suzanne Bolanos, a Californi Superior Court Judge, ignored the suggestions of the jury that Dwayne Johnson should receive $289 million in a ruling against Monsanto after it was revealed that the agricultural biotechnology corporation had caused the man to have lesions on over 80% of his body. Monsanto petitioned the judge to reduce the amount awarded to the now terminally ill ex-groundskeeper who routinely used a Monsanto product, Roundup, while working for the San Franciso Bay Area school district, and she did to about $78 million.
The jury had ruled that the product played a “substantial factor” in the deteriorating health of Johnson. The man developed Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and it had been determined to be at least partly connected to his use of glyphosate, a primary ingredient in Roundup.
Monsanto and their attorneys were given the opportunity to argue about the award and to present their case as to why they should not be held liable for the $289 million in court, and Bolanos largely agreed. $250 million was in punitive damages, and she ruled that Johnson “presented no clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression to support an award of punitive damages,” reducing that amount to $39 million.
According to the Grio, Jurors in the case have written in to express their displeasure with the Bolanos ruling. Juror Gary Khiata stated, “You may not have been convinced by the evidence but we were. I urge you to respect and honor our verdict and the six weeks of our lives that we dedicated to this trial.” Robert Howard wrote, “our unanimous verdict could be summarily overturned demeans our system of justice and shakes my confidence in that system.”
Bolanos does state that her ruling is not a presumption of innocence on Monsanto’s behalf, even though she said that Johnson did not convince her with his evidence. “In enforcing due process limits, the court does not sit as a replacement for the jury but only as a check on arbitrary awards… The punitive damages award must be constitutionally reduced to the maximum allowed by due process in this case — $39,253,209.35 — equal to the amount of compensatory damages awarded by the jury based on its findings of harm to the plaintiff.” If the plaintiff and Monsanto do not agree to this ruling, then a new trial can be set. As of now, Johnson is slated to get a total of about $78 million.