A terminally ill California man won a milestone case against agricultural giant Monsanto after he claimed the company’s weed killer, Roundup, gave him cancer.
Dewayne Johnson, 46, was awarded $289 million in damages on Friday after a jury ruled the company’s product was the reason he developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to the Associated Press.
Monsanto denies the claims their product causes cancer and told the wire they plan to appeal the verdict.
Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, said he used the weed killer regularly while spraying it on the grounds he worked on in the San Francisco Bay Area school district.
In one instance, the product left the father of two soaked after a hose broke in 2012, according to CNN.
He claimed he contacted the company after he developed a rash but was never told it could cause cancer, the AP reported.
Two years later, in 2014 at the age of 42, Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a form of cancer that begins when cells in the body grow out of control. Cells in virtually any part of the body can become cancerous and spread to other areas, according to the American Cancer Society.
About 80 percent of Johnson’s body is now covered in lesions, CNN reported.
Monsanto’s attorney, George Lombardi, argued in court that non-Hodgkins lymphoma develops over the course of years meaning Johnson’s cancer started before he began working as a groundskeeper.
“We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that… Roundup could cause cancer,” Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement obtained by The Guardian.
The verdict against the corporation gave the “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits.”
The key ingredient at the center of the lawsuit is glyphosate — found in Roundup — which the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said was “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015.
In a statement to the newspaper, Scott Partridge, Vice President of Monsanto, said “glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer” adding, “We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others.”
Monsanto is facing about 2,000 other lawsuits from cancer patients, their families or their estates who claim their products also gave them cancer.