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Monsanto seeks dismissal of $289 million Roundup verdict

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A San Francisco Superior Court judge will hear arguments Oct. 10 on a bid by Monsanto Co. for dismissal of a $289 million jury verdict for a cancer-stricken gardener who used the Monsanto weedkillers Roundup and Roundup Pro.

Dewayne Johnson of Vallejo, a former Benicia Unified School District groundskeeper who is terminally ill from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, won the financial award from a jury in the court of Judge Suzanne Bolanos in August after an 8-week trial.

The case was the first to go to trial among several thousand cases filed in state and federal courts around the country by people who claim their cancer is linked to Roundup.

In twin post-trial motions filed on Tuesday, the Missouri-based agrochemical company asked for a new trial or dismissal of the verdict, known as judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

The company contends there is no reliable scientific basis for the award.

Monsanto attorneys wrote:

“The scientific evidence in this case falls far short of the sufficient and substantial evidence required to sustain this verdict.”

Johnson’s lawyers are due to file their opposition to the motions by Oct. 1.

The jury award included $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. Jurors stated in the verdict that the weedkiller was a “substantial factor in causing harm” to Johnson, and that the company failed in a duty to warn of the risks.

In addition to arguing lack of scientific basis, Monsanto lawyers contended in the motions that the punitive award was not justified because there was no evidence that company executives acted maliciously in marketing the product.

They claimed the $39 million compensatory award is too high because it included $33 million for future economic losses. That amount is too much, the attorneys wrote, because “undisputed evidence” at the trial showed that Johnson’s life expectancy is six months to two years.

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