"Bleak as it may sound, the truth is I have not yet won"
EXCERPT: While $289 million can buy many things, justice is immeasurable. Justice would be freedom from terminal illness, an ability to go back to earning a living through real, dignified work. For so many others and me, justice would mean a change in labeling, safer herbicide formulas, maybe even a complete removal of the product from the shelves.
My fight for justice goes on
By Dewayne “Lee” Johnson
San Francisco Chronicle, Oct 23, 2018
The days following the court’s decision, I watched the footage play over and over. The jury stands up. The courtroom falls silent as they read the final verdict, “The plaintiff is to be awarded $250 million in punitive damages and $39.2 million in losses.” I remember feeling as if all the fluids in my body rushed out and immediately back in. I see my own reaction — shock, calm, a wave of relief. I am surprised by own composure. Is this what justice looks like?
When I pursued my case against the company, I was not seeking to become a rich man. I was not looking to become an activist or a martyr. I have always lived a very private life led by a few simple rules: Be humble, be kind, do good and good will come to you. So when wrong was done to me, when I contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I was not merely seeking compensation; I wanted answers. Why me? What was happening to my body? What was this chemical “glyphosate,” and would it take my life when I still had so much left to live?
I needed answers, and not simply for my own peace of mind. I was a groundskeeper for many years. It was not just a job for me but a livelihood, a labor that brought me peace and the gratification that comes with making things beautiful. When I realized that every day for years I had been spraying this chemical — sometimes 150 gallons of it a day — across playgrounds not unlike the ones my kid frequented, something in me was stirred to action. If I could prove it caused me harm, then perhaps I could give people a chance to protect themselves and their own children. Maybe I could give them the chance that was taken away from me.
What started as a basic pursuit of truth became something much larger than myself. I was no longer just “Lee”, the groundskeeper and creative soul from a small California town. In that one instant, I was no longer just a good husband and father of three, I was now “David slaying Goliath.”
And though I empathize with that character, I do not fully recognize myself in him. In the news, I am often described as a “dying man.” However, I do not embrace death. Despite being fully aware of the severity of my illness, I reject the victim mentality. Aside from being a victim of circumstance, I feel like a victor in life. I have turned an impossible situation into a triumph for many and can now care for my family. The world has opened up to hear my story, and I have experienced an unbelievable outpouring of kindness. Believe it or not, I bear no malice toward those who have brought me harm.
The question I get most often now is what I am going to do now that I’ve won. And as bleak as it may sound, the truth is I have not yet won. There are appeals and legal processes that could very well outlast me, and much of the fight is waiting. However, I will continue to pursue truth. While $289 million can buy many things, justice is immeasurable. Justice would be freedom from terminal illness, an ability to go back to earning a living through real, dignified work. For so many others and me, justice would mean a change in labeling, safer herbicide formulas, maybe even a complete removal of the product from the shelves.
These days, when I watch the reading of the verdict, I am not as surprised by my calm demeanor. I think a part of me knew the fight was not yet over. Justice has yet to be fully obtained. I am still waiting for the truth to be fully revealed. I am still holding out hope for that next big headline: “Dying man, who slayed Goliath, survives.”
Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, 46, a groundskeeper in Benicia, sued Monsanto Co., the maker of the weed-killer Roundup, in San Francisco Superior Court. On Aug. 10, 2018, a jury awarded him $289 million. On Monday, the judge reduced the award to $78.9 million.