SAN FRANCISCO - An attorney for a 46-year-old California man diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin's lymphoma told a jury during opening arguments on Monday that chemical giant Monsanto has known its best-selling weed killer Roundup causes cancer for almost as long as his client has been alive, claims that the company is fighting.
"For the past 40 years, Monsanto has known the primary ingredient in Roundup can produce tumors in lab animals," Brent Wisner, a partner with Baum, Hedland, Aristei, Goldman, told a California Superior Court jury.
As a groundskeeper at a school in nearby Benecia, Dewayne Johnson regularly used Roundup in performing his duties. The father of two was first diagnosed with the cancer that critically affects white blood cells in 2014.
Wisner added in his opening that not only was Monsanto negligent in not warning consumers about the dangers of Roundup, but the company has also "fought science" by minimizing the long suspected links between the chemical herbicide and cancer that have been documented.
"Monsanto has gone out of its way to bully scientists and fight researchers," he added.
Access to the trial is provided courtesy of Courtroom View Network.
Wisner described his client as now being on “borrowed time” after being told for years that Roundup was completely non-toxic. Johnson's team of attorneys have questioned if even a $100 million award verdict would be sufficient.
"He was told you could drink it,” Wisner said. "You will hear testimony from him that he got drenched in it, repeatedly. He wore protective gear. He wore a full body plastic suit, mask, goggles or sunglasses. While plastic can stop water, it doesn't stop Roundup."
Meanwhile, attorneys for Monsanto argued that glyphosate, a suspected carcinogen and main ingredient in Roundup, does not cause cancer and that they have more than 800 studies to prove it.
“Cancer is a terrible disease; Mr. Johnson’s cancer is a terrible disease, but the scientific evidence is overwhelming that glyphosate products do not cause cancer,” said Monsanto attorney George Lombardi, a partner with Chicago-based Winston & Strawn LLP. “Glyphosate has no association with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
The case is the first of what could be a flood of litigation for Monsanto in the argument over what health risks their products pose.
Founded more than a century ago in St. Louis, Mo., the company was recently acquired by German-based pharmaceutical and chemical group Bayer for $62 million. It now employs more than 20,000 people and generates annual revenue exceeding $15 billion.