A jury has ordered Monsanto Co. to pay $289.2 million in a landmark lawsuit over whether exposure to two of its powerful weed killers caused cancer.
The jury verdict, in San Francisco Superior Court, is the latest setback for Monsanto, now part of Bayer AG BAYRY, -3.66% , as its flagship weed killer Roundup comes under increased scrutiny following the 2015 determination from the World Health Organization that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicides, is probably carcinogenic.
On Friday, in the first of thousands of lawsuits to go to trial, the jury unanimously found that the company’s Ranger Pro and Roundup products presented a “substantial danger” to consumers, and that Monsanto knew or should have known of potential risks and failed to warn consumers like Dewayne “Lee” Johnson.
Johnson had worked as a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay-area and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The jury awarded him $39.2 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
Monsanto said it would appeal. Punitive damages, especially those many times higher than the compensatory awards, are often reduced by the trial judge or reversed on appeal.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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