By Jessica Domel
Multimedia Reporter

After 32 days at trial and three days of deliberations, a California jury on Friday returned a verdict in favor of a former school groundskeeper who claims his cancer was caused by popular weedkiller glyphosate.

Dewayne Johnson of California was awarded $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages, according to court documents.

Monsanto is appealing the decision, citing more than 800 scientific studies and reviews that support their assertion glyphosate does not cause cancer.

Johnson filed suit against Monsanto Company, maker of Roundup and RangerPro, in 2016, citing the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) embattled Glyphosate Monograph and documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In court filings, Johnson’s lawyers allege Roundup products were “manufactured, designed and labeled in an unsafe, defective and inherently dangerous manner.”

They went on to claim Monsanto knew, or should have known, that Roundup posed a risk.

“During his employment with the Benicia Unified School District, ‘his responsibilities included direct application of Roundup and RangerPro, another Monsanto glyphosate product, to school properties,’” court documents state.

Johnson’s attorneys told the court at the age of 42, the groundskeeper was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, as the “direct and proximate result of defendants placing defective Roundup products into the stream of commerce.”

Johnson applied Roundup and RangerPro about 30 times a year at the school, according to Reuters.

There are more than 5,000 similar lawsuits pending across the nation, Reuters reported Friday.

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide.

In court documents, Monsanto pointed to EPA’s 2017 release of a decades-long assessment of glyphosate and any potential risks the herbicide could pose.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has broad authority to regulate all herbicides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, has for decades found glyphosate to be ‘one of the most safely-used pesticides in the U.S.,’ and EPA repeatedly has concluded that glyphosate exposure does not cause cancer, including as recently as last year,’” court documents read.

The statement goes on to address the embattled IARC report from 2015 calling glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.”

“IARC is located in Lyon, France. It is not a regulatory agency, and none of its determinations are binding on any country,” court documents with Monsanto’s statement read. “Although IARC purports to ‘identify cancer hazards,’ it acknowledges that it does not evaluate the risks associated with exposure and that a substance may be classified as ‘probably carcinogenic’ under its methodology, ‘even when risks are very low with known patterns of use of exposure.’”

The IARC, according to Monsanto’s in-trial statement, does not take into account “levels of exposure, methods of exposure or other factors central to a determination of whether a substance can actually cause cancer in humans under real world exposure scenarios.”

After the trial, a spokesman for Monsanto told reporters in San Francisco the company is sympathetic to Johnson and his family, but they would “continue to defend the product, which has a 40-year history of safe use.”

Monsanto was acquired by Bayer earlier this year. A Bayer spokesperson told the BBC the two companies operate independently, and “Bayer is confident, based on the strength of the science, the conclusions of regulators around the world and decades of experience, that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label.”

The lawsuit is the first to go to trial alleging glyphosate causes cancer.