A shock verdict was returned by an American jury in August 2018 whereby manufacturer, Monsanto, was ordered to pay $289 million (£226 million) in compensation to Mr Dewayne Johnson.  Mr Johnson claimed that the glyphosate found in Roundup weed killer caused his cancer.

Mr Dewayne Johnson was diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an uncommon cancer, in 2014.

As part of his role as a school groundsman, Mr Johnson used Roundup weed killer regularly.  The weed killer contains a chemical called ‘glyphosate’ and Mr Johnson claimed that exposure to the chemical, through use of Roundup, caused his cancer.

In this case, the jury found that the use of Roundup was a substantial cause of Mr Johnson’s cancer. The jury also found that the manufacturer failed to warn its customers of the dangers in using the product despite being aware of the health risks, and that they therefore acted with ‘malice and oppression’ in selling Roundup.

 

What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is a herbicide which is contained in weedkillers worldwide.  It is very commonly used in UK agriculture and it is also used in parks, schools and gardens in the UK.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer warned that glyphosate was a ‘probable human carcinogen’. Although it is commonly used in weedkiller products, there has long been a concern that the chemical may be cancerous. Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, claims that the Monsanto case has highlighted, ‘the problem with relying on chemical pesticides globally as so little is known about the long-term environmental and health impacts.’

In their defence, Monsanto argue that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer as they claim that there is, ‘no credible scientific evidence that demonstrates otherwise.’ In view of this, the company now intend to appeal the jury’s verdict.

 

What Are The Implications For The UK?

Businesses such as Homebase and B&Q are currently reviewing whether Roundup should continue to be sold in UK shops.

If Monsanto’s appeal is unsuccessful, this could potentially result in further claims being brought against the company.

It should be noted however that personal injury claims for compensation suffered in the UK are assessed and calculated in a different manner to those brought in America.

In Mr Johnson’s case, the jury returned the verdict that there was a causal link between the chemical used in Roundup and Mr Johnson’s cancer.  In the UK, juries do not give the verdict in such cases. If a personal injury claim goes to trial in the UK, a Judge will make the final decision as to causation after considering the evidence obtained by both parties.

Once a causal link was established by the jury in Mr Johnson’s case, Monsanto was ordered to pay $30 million by way of compensation for his losses. In addition to this, he was also awarded punitive damages in the sum of $250 million. Punitive damages are claimed in addition to the value of the loss actually incurred by the Claimant. Punitive damages are therefore designed to punish the Defendant for their negligence.

In the UK punitive damages are very uncommon and are not usually awarded in personal injury claims. The main principle in assessing damages in the UK is to ‘put the injured party into the same position as he was before’ the accident or negligence. Therefore a Claimant would normally expect to recover General Damages which would cover the value of the injury and Special Damages which cover any other losses incurred as a result of the accident/negligence such as loss of earnings, travel expenses, medication expenses etc.

If you are considering the prospect of legal action following an injury that wasn’t your fault, it is vital you get in touch with a personal injury solicitor at the earliest opportunity who can assess whether you have a case. Get in touch with Farleys’ personal injury team on 0845 287 0939 or email us today.