How the California Roundup verdict could impact a Chesterfield man battling cancer

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- John Demajo said he cherished every second with his precious granddaughter Juniper.

After all, Demajo didn't know if he would make it to this point in life.

“I was hoping through her pregnancy and everything that I would be alive long enough to see the child,” said Demajo.

The Chesterfield County man has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

While the cancer is in remission, Demajo knows it could return at any time.

“I hope I can watch her grow up a little bit,” he added.

While he battles cancer, Demajo is also fighting the company he believed responsible for his cancer.

John Demajo

Demajo is part of a mass tort lawsuit against the chemical company Monsanto, now a part of Bayer after a merger. They make Roundup, the product used to kills lawn weeds.

“I hope the company settles out with all these people. When you have cancer, you have extraordinary medical bills,” said Demajo.
“I'd like to see them take it off the market."

Demajo said he used Roundup at least a couple of times every month when he worked as a contractor in New Orleans.

His case got a boost earlier this month when a California jury awarded $289 million to Dewayne Lee Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who used Roundup 20 to 30 times per year, sometimes two to five hours a day.

“You're gonna get it on you. You're gonna get it on your skin,” said Johnson.

Dewayne Johnson

Doctors diagnosed Johnson with the same type of cancer as Demajo.

Johnson's attorney happens to be Demajo's attorney.

Timothy Litzenburg works with The Miller Firm in Orange, Virginia.

“Congratulations again on winning your case I was just so surprised the night I saw the news come through about it. Wow they won the first case,” Demajo told Litzenburg.

“I'm just grateful that we found you,” he added.

Litzenburg's 2000 cases revolve around a 2015 decision by the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, which classified the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, as probably carcinogenic to humans.

But the makers of Roundup maintain that glyphosate is safe and does not pose a risk to humans.

“We all have tremendous sympathy for Mr. Johnson and his family. What they've gone through with his disease is terrible,” Scott Partridge, Vice President of Global Strategy for Monsanto, said.

"It [the verdict] doesn't change the overwhelming scientific evidence in the 40-years of safe use of glyphosate around the world. It is the most widely used herbicide in the world, it is the most widely studied herbicide in the world," he said after the verdict.

Even though the Johnson victory could have far reaching implications for him and his clients, Litzenburg was not in the court room when the jury announced its unanimous decision.

The father of two, who lives in Richmond, was on dad duty -- camping with his kids.

“We were really excited. We were camping out in West Virginia,” said Litzenburg. “I had to stay up and do some BBC interviews in the middle of the night at some cabin out in the woods.”

Demajo and Litzenburg

But he did immediately call the terminally ill Johnson.

“He's a really brave guy, he never wavered for a second,” said Litzenburg.

John Demajo, thanks to a court ruling thousands of miles away, said he now has a lot more hope for justice.

“The doctors all tell you it will at some point come back, so that's the thing about it. I'm hoping there is some vindication for all these people,” said Demajo. “Hopefully I’ll be alive along enough to see justice happen."

Litzenburg said his next Roundup case goes to trial in January 2019.

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