Judge denies Monsanto's request to scrap $250 million punishment -- but there's a catch
But she's also slashing that man's punitive award down to about $39 million.
Former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was the first cancer patient to take Monsanto to trial, claiming Roundup gave him non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Jurors sided with Johnson and awarded him $250 million in punitive damages (to punish Monsanto) and about $39 million in compensatory damages (for Johnson's lost income, pain and suffering).
The jury's verdict came in August. But on October 10, the tide appeared to turn in Monsanto's favor.
That's when Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos issued a tentative ruling granting Monsanto's request for a JNOV -- a judgment notwithstanding verdict. That's basically when a judge in a civil case overrules the jury's decision.
Bolanos said the plaintiff "presented no clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression to support an award of punitive damages." In other words, Johnson's entire $250 million punitive award was in jeopardy.
The judge gave attorneys on both sides a few days to respond and further make their cases.
When she issued her final ruling Monday, Bolanos reversed her tentative ruling and denied Monsanto's request for a JNOV.
But it wasn't a complete victory for Johnson. Instead of $289 million in combined damage awards, Johnson is slated to get a total of about $78 million.
Bolanos said the punitive award was too high and needed to match Johnson's $39 million compensatory award.
"In enforcing due process limits, the court does not sit as a replacement for the jury but only as a check on arbitrary awards," Bolanos wrote in her ruling Monday.
"The punitive damages award must be constitutionally reduced to the maximum allowed by due process in this case -- $39,253,209.35 -- equal to the amount of compensatory damages awarded by the jury based on its findings of harm to the plaintiff."
Monsanto had also requested a new trial on the punitive damages. The judge said that request will be denied if Johnson accepts the smaller punitive award. If he does not accept the $39 million punitive award, then a new trial would be set.
The $211 million plummet in Johnson's punitive award caught some legal experts by surprise, including University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias.
"I am somewhat surprised, but the punitive damage award was high even though the (percentage of) reduction was steep," Tobias said. "No one thought the plaintiff would retain the whole (punitive damages) award."
Thousands of cases hang in the balance
What ends up happening with Johnson's case doesn't just affect him. It could set a precedent for more than 4,000 similar cases awaiting trial in federal or state courts.
Johnson was the first cancer patient to take Monsanto to court because in California, dying plaintiffs can be granted expedited trials.
Tobias said the slashing of Johnson's award could be a setback for similar plaintiffs to come. But Johnson's triumphant verdict could also help other plaintiffs.
While the ruling "may take the wind out of their sails," the professor said, "Johnson may also provide a road map for the 4,000 other cases on liability and allow some plaintiffs to win."
Even though Johnson is supposed to get millions of dollars, he "hasn't seen a dime" of that yet because of Monsanto's appeal, said attorney Timothy Litzenburg of Roundup Cancer Firm LLC.
But "I was personally pleased to see (the judge) move in a direction more in line with that of the jury's decision," Litzenburg said.
Bayer, the company that recently acquired Monsanto, had a mixed reaction to Bolanos' ruling.
"The court's decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal," Bayer said.
The company said hundreds of studies have shown glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, is safe when used as directed.
"Glyphosate-based herbicides have been used safely and successfully for over four decades," Bayer said.
The child at the center of a legal fight over keeping her on a ventilator has died, her family says
"The family is saddened by her loss but are glad she passed naturally," Justin Moore told CNN on Saturday.
The 9-year-old girl, who had been declared brain-dead, was at the center of an ongoing court dispute between a Fort Worth hospital, which wanted to remove her from the ventilator, and her parents, who wanted to keep her on the machine.
A judge this week ruled in favor of her parents' request to have a temporary restraining order against the hospital extended.
Payton was not removed from the ventilator, Moore said.
Payton had been on mechanical ventilation at Cook Children's Medical Center since late September, following an overnight stay with her grandmother during which she suddenly awoke, "screamed for her grandmother to help her and said that she couldn't breathe ... then she collapsed," Payton's mother, Tiffany Hofstetter, told CNN affiliate KTVT that month.
Payton was taken to the hospital, where doctors established a heartbeat, then put her on a ventilator because she was no longer breathing. The hospital established that Payton had suffered cardiac arrest caused by the growth of a very large tumor in her chest that shut off her circulatory system.
A test showed Payton no longer had brain activity, leading her doctors to declare brain death.
"When Payton Summons suffered brain death on September 25, she was determined to be dead under clear Texas law and the laws of every other state," the hospital told CNN Wednesday in a statement.
"Brain death, by definition, is irreversible," CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has said. "In the United States and most places, it is legally synonymous with death -- the same as if your heart stops. ... But brain death means a total loss of brain activity."
In Payton's case, the hospital said that "per our protocol and national pediatric medical standards, a second brain death exam was scheduled to take place by a different physician within 12 hours of the first to complete the legal process of declaring Payton deceased," according to a separate statement released in September, KTVT reported.
However, the hospital held off on the second exam when Payton's family requested a temporary restraining order against the facility. The family wanted to keep Payton on the ventilator until they could find another hospital that would take their daughter.
The order was granted, then on Monday extended through October 22.
The day after that approval, the hospital asked the court to vacate the order.
"The judge's decision has put all of us in an incredibly difficult position. As a hospital made up of women and men who made it their careers to save lives, we are truly devastated for this family," said the Wednesday statement from Cook Children's.
"There is no treatment that can be provided for her at Cook Children's or any other facility that will change that. To maintain a dead person on mechanical ventilation and insist -- in fact order -- that health care providers continue treating a deceased, deteriorating body is medically, ethically, and morally wrong. We will continue to support this family during this difficult time," the statement said.
Moore on Tuesday called the hospital's latest challenge "legal wrangling."
"The hospital is reverting to legal wrangling for an attempt at preventing Payton's parents from looking for facilities to accept their baby girl," he wrote.
A judge on Friday ruled that the extended temporary restraining order would stay in effect through Monday, Moore tweeted.
She asked for a drug to treat her miscarriage. The pharmacist refused to give it to her because of his religion
Then the pharmacist made things worse.
Peterson says back in July a pharmacist at a Meijer pharmacy in Petoskey, Michigan, refused to fill her prescription for a drug to treat her miscarriage because of his religious beliefs. She's working with the American Civil Liberties Union to change Meijer's policy and is willing to go to court if need be to keep what happened to her from happening to another woman.
Peterson, of Ionia, Michigan, was out of town and away from the pharmacy that she usually uses, so she called the pharmacy at Meijer, a 230-store grocery chain located in six Midwestern states. She was initially told that the prescription her doctor had called in would be filled. But then the pharmacist there called back and said he wouldn't fill it.
"The pharmacist called me and said that he could not in good conscience fill this medication because he was a good Catholic male and could not support an abortion," Peterson told CNN.
She explained to the pharmacist that she needed the drug, misoprostol, because she'd had a miscarriage (the fetus' heart had stopped beating). Misoprostol, also known by the brand name Cytotec, is often used to treat miscarriages. If it's combined with mifepristone, a drug often called the "abortion pill," it can terminate an early pregnancy.
"He didn't believe me and said that he would still not give me the medication," Peterson said.
She asked to speak to another pharmacist; he said no other pharmacist was there. She asked to speak with a manager; he said there was no manager there to speak with. She asked whether the prescription could be transferred to another pharmacy. He said no. Peterson said she felt bullied.
"It was very difficult to deal with when you're in a really bad state of mind already. And then to have someone who doesn't believe you and not to have any empathy ... that really is difficult to comprehend," she said. "It could have severely affected me mentally and physically not to get the medication."
She was able to have the prescription filled later at her regular pharmacy in Ionia.
Reaching out for help
Once she returned home, Peterson started doing research, wondering whether her rights had been violated.
"If this is happening to me is it happening more to other people," she thought.
Peterson later talked to a regional manager at Meijer about it and was told the pharmacist was on personal leave and an investigation had been started. She filed a formal complaint with Meijer's corporate office, but never heard back.
"I would really like to hear from Meijer's to hear what their plans are moving forward and having clear policies in place so that their customers are aware of specific store policies and their rights," she said.
So now she's reached out to the ACLU, which sent a letter of complaint to Meijer on her behalf, hoping it can force the grocery chain to change its policy and make sure its enforced.
"Meijer's practice of allowing its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions and decline to transfer them is discriminatory and violates Michigan's public accommodations laws," the ACLU said in a statement earlier this week. "Meijer must implement a policy to ensure that all customers in the future receive their medication without undue delay regardless of the personal beliefs of its pharmacists."
Meijer said it had investigated Peterson's allegations but couldn't discuss them publicly because of state and federal privacy laws. It also reiterated its policies.
"A pharmacist may refuse to fill a prescription based upon religious beliefs. However, our procedure requires the prescription to then be filled by another pharmacist in the store," Meijer said in a statement. "If no other pharmacist is available, the pharmacist must consult with the patient to arrange for the transfer of the prescription to another pharmacy that is convenient to them. This is consistent with the American Pharmacy Association and the Michigan Pharmacy Association Guidelines. A pharmacist who fails to follow this procedure, is in violation of our process."
The pharmacist, whom Meijer declined to identify, has not been employed by the grocery chain since July, it said.
It also offered an apology.
"While we cannot comment on any pharmacy customer matter, we apologize for any customer experience that does not align with our core values," Meijer said.
Peterson said if the ACLU complaint doesn't achieve the desired results, she would be willing to file a lawsuit.
USC says it's tentatively agreed to $215M settlement over gynecologist misconduct claims
The settlement would provide at least $2,500 to "all class members" -- patients who received women's health services from Tyndall -- interim USC President Wanda Austin said in a statement released Friday.
"Patients who are willing to provide further details about their experience could be eligible for additional compensation up to $250,000," Austin's statement reads.
The proposed settlement was "reached with plaintiffs' counsel," Austin said.
Tyndall served as a gynecologist at the university student health center for nearly 30 years until he was fired in 2017. He has denied any wrongdoing. He is being investigated by law enforcement authorities but has not been charged with any crime.
Who does the settlement cover?
According to attorneys that have filed state actions, the settlement applies only to the federal class-action cases. USC does not specify which cases are covered.
Gloria Allred, a lawyer for some of the women, called the payments of $2,500 per plaintiff as "way too minimal." She said the settlement applied only to the federal class-action cases and her office will continue to litigate state court lawsuits involving the university and Tyndall.
Tara Lee, a USC lawyer, said it will be at least 30 days before the two sides iron out the particulars of how the agreement will work and then present an agreement to federal Judge Stephen Wilson.
Lee says there is a potential of as many as 17,000 members of the class for this federal suit.
On Thursday, a plaintiffs' attorney said 93 additional women had come forward to accuse Tyndall of sexual misconduct in two new lawsuits.
Former, current students filed suit
The former and current USC students sued him and the university in lawsuits that first became public in May, accusing the doctor of sexual misconduct and using inappropriate language.
Some of the women alleged Tyndall conducted pelvic examinations without gloves and made racial and sexual comments while examining them.
Last July, one of his lawyers, Leonard Levine, said the examinations were for medical purposes and "consistent with the standard of care for such examinations."
CNN tried unsuccessfully to reach Levine for comment about the settlement on Friday.
USC president stepped down
Tyndall was was dismissed in 2017 for inappropriate behavior, according to USC.
University officials said the school reached a settlement with the doctor and did not report him to law enforcement or state medical authorities at the time.
The scandal led to the May resignation of school President C.L. Max Nikias. Thousands of students and alumni had signed an online petition demanding he resign.
Austin, a university board member who had served as president and CEO of the Aerospace Corp., was named interim president.
"I regret that any student ever felt uncomfortable, unsafe or mistreated in any way as a result of the actions of a university employee," Austin said, according to the statement released Friday.