Plaintiff grounds manager sued a manufacturer, Monsanto, alleging that herbicide use caused his non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The jury


Plaintiff grounds manager sued a manufacturer, Monsanto, alleging that herbicide use caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury awarded the plaintiff \($39.3\) million in compensatory damages and \($250\) million in punitive damages. Of the compensatory damages award, more than \($38\) million was for noneconomic loss or pain and suffering and was calculated based on the assumption that the plaintiff would live a normal lifespan.
Defendant filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the trial court reduced the punitive damages award to the same amount as compensatory damages. Defendant Monsanto appealed, challenging both the compensatory and punitive damages awards.
JUSTICE PJ HUMES Johnson’s attorney argued to the jury that Johnson was entitled to \($1\) million per year of his pain and suffering. … Johnson was entitled to future noneconomic damages measured by a life expectancy that was reasonable and realistic, not a life expectancy based on the hope that he might miraculously live for dozens of more years. There is no dispute that Johnson was entitled to \($4\) million for his suffering up to the time of trial in the summer of 2018. Again, conflicting evidence was presented on how long Johnson would live following trial. … The weight of the evidence was that Johnson would die far sooner than he otherwise would have, but obviously there was no way for the jury to determine precisely how long he would live. We conclude that \($4\) million is an appropriate award that best serves the interests of justice under the circumstances of this case. The jury’s total noneconomic damages award is thus reversed and remitted to \($8\) million (\($4\) million in past noneconomic loss, plus \($4\) million in future noneconomic loss), plus the other compensatory damages awarded, resulting in a total reduced award of \($10,253,209.32\) to compensate for economic loss.
Substantial evidence was presented from which the jury could infer that Monsanto acted with a conscious disregard for public safety by discounting legitimate questions surrounding glyphosate’s genotoxic effect and failing to conduct adequate studies. Johnson presented evidence that in 1983 a study showed a causal association between glyphosate and kidney tumors in male mice. The EPA drafted a determination that glyphosate was a possible carcinogen. Monsanto objected to the draft, sought and obtained permission to reexamine the tested kidneys, and found an undiscovered tumor in the control group. Based on this discovery, Monsanto questioned the validity of the study, and the EPA recommended that a new one be conducted. The EPA designed a new mouse study in consultation with Monsanto, but Monsanto did not conduct the study[stating] … that “Monsanto is concerned that even the initiation of formal regulatory action would have serious negative economic repercussions, which we believe are not justified by the scientific evidence.”
Studies conducted by others in 1993 and 1997 also showed a link between glyphosate and tumors in mice.
[A]s the use of glyphosate-based herbicides increased from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, when glyphosate became the top-used herbicide, so did the studies showing the compound’s potential genotoxicity. Johnson’s expert in pesticide regulation and pesticide risk assessment testified that in 1999 and 2001, “several peer-reviewed papers had come out using a variety of the different genotox assays,” and “by 2005 there were a boat load” of studies. When met with new information about possible cancer risks, Monsanto would push back. …
In addition to the evidence that the company … discounted questions about glyphosate’s safety and failed to adequately test its products, other evidence was presented upon which the jury could have inferred that Monsanto acted with a conscious disregard for public safety. This included evidence that Monsanto employees surreptitiously contributed to articles reporting that glyphosate was noncarcinogenic. One such article was touted for “future product defense against claims that glyphosate is mutagenic or genotoxic.”
… Even if the evidence did not require an inference that Monsanto was more concerned about defending and promoting its product than public health, it supported such an inference. … Similarly, the jury could have inferred that Monsanto’s actions in attempting to influence regulatory agencies evinced an indifference to public safety. … Taken together, the evidence amounted to substantial evidence that Monsanto acted with a willful and conscious disregard of others’ safety. … [Given that] the IARC concluded that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”—a classification given to only 10 percent of the substances it studies—we have had no hesitation upholding the jury’s causation findings.
But in light of all the evidence—including the evidence from which the jury could have inferred that Monsanto discounted legitimate questions surrounding glyphosate’s genotoxic effect, failed to conduct adequate studies, was indifferent to Johnson’s specific concerns, and otherwise acted to promote its products without sufficient regard to public safety—we agree with the trial court that “[t]he jury could find that the decision by Monsanto to continue marketing GBH’s [glyphosate-based herbicides] notwithstanding a possible link with NHL [non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma] constitutes corporate malice for purposes of punitive damages.” Ultimately, we must agree with Johnson and the trial court that the determination of whether to award punitive damages was a question for the jury, and we will not disturb its finding given that it is supported by sufficient evidence.
The judgment as to Johnson’s future noneconomic compensatory damages is future is reduced to \($4\) million, which results in a total reduced award of \($10,253,209.32\) in compensatory damages. The judgment is further modified to reduce the award of punitive damages to \($10,253,209.32.
Affirmed\) in part and modified.
The high court found that evidence of the defendant’s conduct was sufficient for the jury to find malice on Monsanto’s part, which was necessary for an award of punitive damages. What evidence might the defendant have introduced, if it existed, that could have led to a different outcome? In other words, could there possibly been any missing information that would have strengthened the company’s case?
Explain which stakeholder’s interests were prioritized by Monsanto and how prioritizing a different group of stakeholders might have led them to a different course of behavior.

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Dynamic Business Law

ISBN: 9781260733976

6th Edition

Authors: Nancy Kubasek, M. Neil Browne, Daniel Herron, Lucien Dhooge, Linda Barkacs

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