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Monsanto ordered to pay $290m to cancer patient

Verdict "shows the evidence is overwhelming" that product poses danger.

A California jury ordered chemical giant Monsanto to pay nearly $290 million Friday for failing to warn a dying groundskeeper that its weed killer Roundup might cause cancer.

Jurors unanimously found that Monsanto -- which vowed to appeal -- acted with "malice" and that its weed killers Roundup and the professional grade version RangerPro contributed "substantially" to Dewayne Johnson's terminal illness.

Following eight weeks of trial proceedings, the San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto to pay $250 million in punitive damages along with compensatory damages and other costs, bringing the total figure to nearly $290 million.

"The jury got it wrong," the company's vice president Scott Partridge told reporters outside the courthouse.

Johnson, a California groundskeeper diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- a cancer that affects white blood cells -- says he repeatedly used a professional form of Roundup while working at a school in Benicia, California.

"I want to thank everybody on the jury from the bottom of my heart," Johnson, 46, said during a press conference after the verdict.

"I am glad to be here; the cause is way bigger than me. Hopefully this thing will get the attention it needs."

Johnson, who appeared to be fighting back sobs while the verdict was read, wept openly, as did some jurors, when he met with the panel afterward.

The lawsuit built on 2015 findings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the UN World Health Organization, which classified Roundup's main ingredient glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, causing the state of California to follow suit.

"We are sympathetic to Mr Johnson and his family," Monsanto said in a statement promising to appeal the ruling and "continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective and safe tool for farmers and others."

But Johnson's attorney Brent Wisner said the verdict "shows the evidence is overwhelming" that the product poses danger.

"When you are right, it is really easy to win," he said.

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