Johnson v. Monsanto Co.
Jury Awards Groundskeeper $289.2 Million in Landmark Monsanto Roundup Verdict
Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company was
the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Mr. Johnson's lawsuit alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed
killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused Northern California
resident Dewayne “Lee” Johnson to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma
(NHL). His trial began on July 9, 2018 in California state court and ended
on August 10, 2018 with a landmark verdict, the first verdict against
Monsanto, determining that Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The jury awarded Mr. Johnson $289 million ($39.2 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages
for failing to warn consumers that exposure to Roundup weed killer causes
cancer). Monsanto has appealed Mr. Johnson’s verdict.
Lee Johnson worked as a groundskeeper for the
Benicia Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay Area. Between 2012 and 2015, part of Mr. Johnson’s
job was to apply Monsanto herbicides to school properties.
In 2014, Lee began to experience severe skin irritation, which he reported
to health care providers. He also contacted Monsanto, asking if his skin
irritation could have been caused by his use of Roundup. Internal Monsanto
emails later obtained by Lee’s attorneys show that his queries concerning
Roundup were discussed among company employees. However, Monsanto never
responded to Mr. Johnson, so he continued to use Roundup.
In August of 2014, Lee was diagnosed with
mycosis fungoides (non-Hodgkin lymphoma with large cell transformation). After his diagnosis, his job still required him to apply and be in close
contact with Monsanto glyphosate-based herbicides. Despite enduring chemotherapy
treatments throughout 2015, Mr. Johnson’s cancer progressed.
Mr. Johnson filed a Roundup cancer lawsuit against Monsanto in 2016. He
is represented by
the Miller Firm and Wisner Baum (formerly
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman).
7/20/2020 update: Monsanto/ Bayer AG loses appeal in
Johnson v. Monsanto. The
California Courts of Appeal First Appellate District ruled today in favor of Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson. Statement by
Co-Lead Trial Counsel R. Brent Wisner:
"This is another major victory for Lee and his family. Nearly every
argument by Monsanto was rejected, including Mansanto's vaunted preemption
defense, and the verdict was upheld. The reduction in damages is a function
of a deep flaw in California tort law, not the merits of the case. Basically,
California law does not allow a plaintiff to recover for a shortened life
expectancy. This effectively rewards a defendant for killing a plaintiff,
as opposed to just injuring him. It is madness. That Lee will not live
an entire life with his wife and children should be compensable. Hopefully,
when the issue gets before the California Supreme Court, we can change
this irrational law." -July 20, 2020
6/2/2020 update: Oral arguments from California appeals court available via CVN.
4/9/2020 update: The California Court of Appeal First Appellate District
set a hearing date of June 2, 2020 for
Johnson v. Monsanto.
2/11/2020 update: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
filed amicus brief in support of plaintiff.
Attorneys for plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson filed omnibus
response to amicus briefs.
5/24/2019 update: The plaintiff, Mr. Johnson, filed his
response and cross appeal.
4/23/2019 update: Monsanto filed its
3/27/2019 update: The Johnson case is currently on appeal in the California State Court
of Appeals. Monsanto’s opening brief is due on April 22, 2019.
10/26/2018 update: Johnson v. Monsanto –
Notice of Acceptance of Remittitur – Judge upheld the jury’s verdict but reduced the punitive
damages award, bringing the total award to $78.5 million.
Wisner Baum Statement:
While we think the punitive damages reduction was not appropriate, Judge
Bolanos’ final ruling did weigh the liability and punitive conduct
evidence according to the required standard: in a light most favorable
to the prevailing party, thus preserving the jury’s basic findings.
We appreciate and acknowledge this jury’s verdict sending a strong
message to deter Monsanto’s conduct that caused Lee Johnson’s
non-Hodgkin lymphoma. However, to hopefully achieve a final resolution
within his lifetime, Mr. Johnson has accepted the punitive damages reduction
suggested by Judge Bolanos. We expect Monsanto to appeal, notwithstanding,
so we will address all issues regarding the verdict and the amount of
damages at the Court of Appeals.
10/22/2018 update: Judge Bolanos denied Monsanto’s motion for JNOV (Judgment Notwithstanding
The Verdict) in Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto.
Statement on behalf of Wisner Baum & The Miller Firm:
Although we believe a reduction in punitive damages was unwarranted and
we are weighing the options, we are pleased the Court did not disturb
the verdict. The evidence presented to this jury was, quite frankly, overwhelming.
And, as we saw in recent days, this jury was intelligent, diligent, and
followed the letter of the law. We are happy the jury’s voice was
acknowledged by the Court, even if slightly muted. We are still reviewing
whether we will accept the proposed remittitur or retry the punitive damages.
That said, today is a triumph for our legal system. We care deeply for
Lee and his family, and we are excited to share this important win with
them and all those who supported this case.
10/12/2018 update: Plaintiff and Defense filed the proposed orders today regarding the motion
for JNOV (Judgment Notwithstanding The Verdict) in Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto.
10/2/18 update: Attorneys for Mr. Johnson filed two opposition briefs on October 2, 2018
in response to motions previously filed by Monsanto;
one opposing Monsanto’s motion for a new trial and the other
opposing Monsanto’s motion to reverse or amend the landmark verdict. According to the plaintiff’s briefs, Monsanto “received a
fair trial in this case and an independent assessment by a remarkable
jury who unanimously found ample evidence that Plaintiff proved all elements
of his case…It is time to end this litigation and respect the jury’s
In the documents below, you will find trial transcripts and exhibits (posted
after 48-hour delay) and other court documents from
Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company. For access to all public documents in this case, you can
view the docket via the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco.
If you are looking for the court documents from the federal Monsanto Roundup
litigation (MDL), please visit the Monsanto Court Papers page.
If you are looking for unsealed Monsanto emails, communications, studies
and other memoranda, please visit the Monsanto Papers page.
Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Trial Transcripts
Day 1: 7/9/18 – Plaintiff opening statement by R. Brent Wisner and Defense opening
statement by George C. Lombardi
Day 2: 7/10/18 – Video deposition of Dr. Mark Martens, former Monsanto executive,
Toxicology Agriculture Research & Development Director for Monsanto
Europe and video deposition of Dr. William Heydens, Product Safety Assessment
Day 3 A: 7/12/18 – Dr. Christopher Portier, former Director of the Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry, direct by Brent Wisner
Day 3 B: 7/12/18 – Dr. Christopher Portier direct by Brent Wisner resumed
Day 4 A: 7/13/18 – Dr. Christopher Portier direct by Brent Wisner resumed, cross
by Kirby Griffis
Day 4 B: 7/13/18 – Dr. Christopher Portier cross by Kirby Griffis resumed
Day 5 A: 7/16/18 – Dr. Christopher Portier cross by Kirby Griffis resumed
Day 5 B: 7/16/18 – Dr. Christopher Portier cross by Kirby Griffis resumed, redirect
by Brent Wisner
Day 6 A: 7/17/18 – Dr. Christopher Portier redirect by Brent Wisner resumed, video
deposition of Dr. William Heydens continued from Day 2, Monsanto Co. Product
Safety Assessment Strategy Lead
Day 6 B: 7/17/18 – Video deposition of Daniel Jenkins, Monsanto’s former US
Agency Manager for Regulatory Affairs, video deposition of Daniel Goldstein,
Monsanto Co. Lead, Medical Sciences and Outreach and Distinguished Science Fellow
Day 7 A: 7/18/18 – Dr. Alfred Neugut, medical oncologist and cancer epidemiologist
at Columbia University, direct by Brent Wisner
Day 7 B: 7/18/18 – Dr. Alfred Neugut direct by Brent Wisner resumed, cross by George
Lombardi, redirect by Brent Wisner, recross by George Lombardi, re-redirect
by Brent Wisner
Day 8 A: 7/20/18 – Dr. Chadi Nabhan, hematologist and medical oncologist, direct
by David Dickens
Day 8 B: 7/20/18 – Dr. Chadi Nabhan, direct by David Dickens resumed, cross by George
Lombardi, redirect by David Dickens, recross by George Lombardi, re-redirect
by David Dickens
Day 9 A: 7/23/18 – Dr. Ope Ofodile, Mr. Johnson’s dermatologist, direct by
Brent Wisner, redirect by Kirby Griffis; Araceli Johnson, plaintiff’s
wife, direct by David Dickens; Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, plaintiff,
direct by David Dickens
Day 9 B: 7/23/18 – Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, plaintiff, direct by David
Dickens resumed, cross by Sandra Edwards, video deposition of Daniel Goldstein resumed
Day 10 A: 7/24/18 – Video deposition of Daniel Goldstein resumed, video deposition
of Donna Farmer, Product Protection and Nutrition Lead, Monsanto Company.
Watch Part 1
Jan. 11, 2017 Donna Farmer Deposition (video) as played at trial Johnson
v. Monsanto Co. and Part 2
Jan. 12, 2017 Donna Farmer Deposition (video) as played at trial Johnson
v. Monsanto Co.
Day 10 B: 7/24/18 – Video deposition of Donna Farmer resumed
Day 11: 7/25/18 – No transcripts – Jury not present –
though exhibits were admitted
Day 12 A: 7/26/18 – William Robert Sawyer, toxicologist, direct by David Dickens
Day 12 B: 7/26/18 – William Robert Sawyer, direct by David Dickens resumed, cross
by George Lombardi, redirect by David Dickens, recross by George Lombardi
Day 13 A: 7/27/18 – Charles Benbrook, scientist and agricultural economist, direct
by Brent Wisner
Day 13 B: 7/27/18 – Charles Benbrook direct by Brent Wisner resumed, cross by Kirby
Griffis, redirect by Brent Wisner, recross by Kirby Griffis
Day 14 A: 7/30/18 – Dr. Kassim Al-Khatib, professor and weed scientist, direct by
voir dire examination by Brent Wisner, cross by Brent Wisner
Day 14 B: 7/30/18 – Cross resumed by Brent Wisner, redirect by Sandra Edwards, recross
by Brent Wisner, video deposition of Dr. Matthew Ross played, video deposition
of epidemiologist Aaron Blair played.
Day 15 A: 7/31/18 – Lorelei Mucci, associate professor of epidemiology, direct by
voir dire examination by Brent Wisner, direct resumed by George Lombardi
Day 15 B: 7/31/18 – Lorelei Mucci, cross by Brent Wisner, redirect by George Lombardi,
recross by Brent Wisner
Day 16 A: 8/2/18 – Dr. Warren Foster, direct by Kirby Griffis,
voir dire examination by Brent Wisner, direct resumed by Kirby Griffis
Day 16 B: 8/2/18 – Dr. Warren Foster, direct continued by Kirby Griffis, cross by
Brent Wisner, redirect by Kirby Griffis, recross by Brent Wisner
Day 17 A: 8/3/18 – Dr. Timothy Kuzel, hematologist and oncologist, direct by Kirby Griffis,
voir dire examination by David Dickens, direct continued by Kirby Griffis, cross
by David Dickens
Day 17 B: 8/3/18 – Dr. Timothy Kuzel, cross continued by David Dickens
Day 18 A: 8/7/18 – Plaintiff closing statement by Brent Wisner
Day 18 B: 8/7/18 – Defense closing statement by George Lombardi; Plaintiff final
statement by Brent Wisner
Plaintiff Closing Slide Presentation by R. Brent Wisner
Day 19: 8/8/18 – Jury intructions given; Jury asks for testimony of Dr. Nabhan
Day 20: 8/9/18 – Jury requests reading of stipulations, Monsanto’s admissions,
and Dr. Foster’s testimony
Day 21: 8/10/2018– Verdict.
Jury unanimously orders Monsanto (now Bayer) to pay $289.25 million in
damages ($250 million in punitive damages and $39.25 million in compensatory
damages), finding exposure to Roundup caused Mr. Johnson to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Plaintiff attorney Brent Wisner during his opening statement to the Johnson
trial jury | JOSH EDELSON/AFP/ Getty Images