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Judge affirms Monsanto weedkiller verdict

Punitive damages slashed to $39 million from $250 million

FILE PHOTO: Monsanto’s research farm is pictured near Carman, Manitoba, Canada on August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Zachary Prong/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Monsanto’s research farm is pictured near Carman, Manitoba, Canada on August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Zachary Prong/File Photo

A U.S. judge on Monday affirmed a verdict against Bayer AG unit Monsanto that found its glyphosate-based weedkillers responsible for a man’s terminal cancer.

In a ruling by San Francisco’s Superior Court of California, Judge Suzanne Bolanos said she would slash the punitive damages award to $39 million, from $250 million, if lawyers for school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson agreed.

Bayer said in a statement the decision to reduce the damages was a step in the right direction, but it would still file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal because the verdict was not supported by the evidence presented at the trial.

“According to an earlier hearing, the judge toyed with the idea of dropping the damages altogether,” brokerage company Alpha said in a note to clients. “Now, however, the judge made a U-turn and confirmed the jury’s previous verdict.”

Monsanto, which denies the allegations, had asked the judge to throw out the entire original $289 million verdict or order a new trial on the punitive damages portion.

A jury on Aug. 10 found the company’s glyphosate-based weedkillers, including RoundUp and Ranger Pro, had caused Johnson’s cancer and that the company failed to warn consumers about the risks.

The verdict wiped 10 percent off the value of the company and marked the first such decision against Monsanto, which faces more than 8,000 similar lawsuits in the United States.

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The German company, which bought Monsanto this year for $63 billion, says decades of scientific studies and real-world use have shown glyphosate to be safe for human use.

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