Agrichemical company Monsanto is asking a San Francisco judge to toss a $289 million verdict awarded to a former school groundskeeper who claimed the company’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Attorneys for Monsanto say the plaintiff, DeWayne Johnson, failed to prove that Roundup caused his cancer and presented no evidence that the company was malicious when marketing its pesticide.
Johnson sprayed Monsanto’s Roundup product as part of his job as a groundskeeper at a San Francisco Bay Area school district. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014.
A San Francisco jury determined that Roundup contributed to the development of the plaintiff’s cancer and that Monsanto should have included a warning label of the potential risk.
The jury awarded Johnson $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
Monsanto maintains that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is safe and claims there are hundreds of studies to prove it.
“While we are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family, glyphosate is not responsible for his illness, and the verdict in this case should be reversed or set aside,” said Bayer AG in a statement. Bayer acquired Monsanto in June.
The court documents, which were filed on Tuesday, ask Judge Suzanna Bolanos to override the jury’s decision and enter judgment in favor of the company, or order a new trial.
The U.S. EPA says glyphosate is safe for humans when properly used.
The news comes after Monsanto’s Roundup has been deemed partly responsible for the ruination of global honeybee populations. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science says glyphosate targets a beneficial enzyme in bee guts that makes them more susceptible to fatal infections.
Earlier research has found that Roundup, even when administered at levels considered safe for humans, modified the gut bacteria in lab rats.