Latest: Judge weighs improper remarks to jury about Monsanto

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on $289 million verdict against Monsanto (all times local):

4 p.m.

A Northern California judge says a cancer patient’s lawyer misled the jury and used improper hyperbole when he compared Monsanto to tobacco companies during his closing arguments.

Lawyers for the cancer patient and the agribusiness giant were in court Wednesday debating whether the improper arguments entitled Monsanto to a new trial.

Monsanto’s attorney George Lombardi argued for a new trial, saying that comparing Monsanto to the tobacco industry was intentional and inaccurate. Tobacco companies agreed to pay billions of dollars to settle lawsuits alleging smoking caused cancer.

An attorney for plaintiff DeWayne Johnson, Michael Miller, argued that the judge properly instructed the jury to disregard the comparison and that throwing out their $289 million verdict is too severe a punishment.

The judge is deciding whether to toss out the jury’s verdict and order a new trial.

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1:55 p.m.

In a tentative ruling, a San Francisco judge says she will order a new trial in a $289 million judgment against agribusiness giant Monsanto brought by a groundskeeper who says Roundup weed-killer caused his cancer.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos issued the ruling Wednesday ahead of scheduled oral arguments.

She said plaintiff DeWayne Johnson failed to produce “clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression” by Monsanto. She wrote that he did not provide any evidence that Monsanto employees believed that exposure to the product caused his lymphoma.

The jury in August awarded Johnson $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.

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10:05 a.m.

A San Francisco jury’s $289 million verdict in favor of a school groundskeeper who says Roundup weed killer caused his cancer will face its first court test.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto will argue at a hearing on Wednesday that Judge Suzanne Bolanos should throw out the verdict in favor of DeWayne Johnson. Attorneys for the company say Johnson failed to prove that Roundup or similar herbicides caused his lymphoma and presented no evidence that Monsanto executives were malicious in marketing Roundup. Bolanos was not expected to rule immediately.

Johnson’s attorneys responded in court documents that the jury was attentive and well-educated and reached a reasonable verdict.

The jury in August awarded Johnson $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.

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