[California man who blames terminal cancer on Roundup testifies at trial. A former school groundskeeper who blames his terminal cancer on the popular weed-killer Roundup has testified in his lawsuit against the herbicide's manufacturer]
RFK II is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma
On Monday morning, July 23, the jury in Johnson vs. Monsanto heard testimony from Dr. Ope Ofodile, the Plaintiff Dewayne "Lee" Johnson's dermatologist. Dr. Ofodile described beginning her treatment of Lee in 2014, shortly after Lee was diagnosed with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Her affection for Lee and her passionate devotion to his treatment was evidenced throughout her surprisingly moving testimony; she even wrote to Lee's employer, the Benicia District School Board, on Lee's behalf and "requested that he not be exposed to [Roundup] as that could exacerbate his condition."
An email from Lee to Dr. Ofodile after she performed surgery on his squamous cell carcinoma illustrated his affection for and gratitude toward her: "Thanks again for slicing me up and getting the poison out." Odofile responded, "Great, my pleasure."
Dr. Odofile testified that the open sores carpeting Lee's body contributed to the aggressive spread of his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; the Roundup, she said, faced fewer barriers to entering his system.
Later in the morning, Araceli Johnson, Lee's wife of 13 years, chronicled her marriage to Lee before his life-changing diagnosis. Araceli, born in Mexico, emigrated to California's Central Valley at age 12. She fell in love with Lee when she saw him walk in late to pre-algebra class at Napa Valley College. She was so shy that she needed her sister's help to work up the courage to talk to him.
Araceli Johnson characterized Lee as an attentive and loving dad to their two children. Ali, 13, is an athlete and sports fanatic like his dad. Ten-year-old Kahli's distinctive characteristics are his love of books and reading and his ambition to be a chemist. She laughed as she described Lee's first time snowboarding with their two sons. While he loved to teach them sports, he also cooked and cleaned for the family, "More a mom than a dad," she said.
Araceli recalled when Lee first told her about his diagnosis, "I couldn't believe it. My world just shut down" I only cried at night it was very hard." She said that Lee also fought to maintain a strong facade for his family, but she recounted the many sleepless nights Lee spent crying in bed when his children were not around, "He tried to hide it and I think he tried to show that he was strong. He tried to be positive, he wanted to be" for us and the kids."
After Lee began chemotherapy, Araceli took a second job working 14-hour days to make a dent in the family's rising medical bills, while still shuttling her two sons an extra 45 minutes to Napa Valley School District in hopes of providing them better educational opportunities than were available near home. My colleague, David Dickens of The Miller Firm, asked Araceli to remember happier times: "Before he had cancer, we had nothing to worry about. It was no worries, no stress. Life was beautiful, simple, just hanging out having a great time. It's something I have to carry around, cancer, it's just too much to deal with."
In the afternoon, Lee Johnson took the stand before a courtroom crowded with journalists and members of the public. Johnson recalled life before his diagnosis. He described the rigorous work ethic that he learned at his first job as a kitchen staffer at Applebee's and how he carried those lessons to his job as school groundskeeper.
Without ever sounding boastful, he described the series of promotions that rewarded his reliability, competence and hard work. Following their marriage, Lee's life orbited around Araceli and their two sons. He attended every practice and worked Ali's football games as a linesman moving the first down chains.
Following his diagnosis, Lee endeavored to hide his pain from his family, but the tragedy, the loneliness, fear and his agony at all those losses sometimes overwhelmed him. He told the jury:
"I'm trying to show my kids an example of how to deal with things and crying is not going to help you, some things are uncontrollable. But I'm raising two little boys, so I'm teaching them to deal with pain and learn to deal with it and to deal with a situation if it comes to you. And sitting around sorrowful and crying is not going to help."
Smiling broadly, Lee related how his aspiring chemist, Kahli, had brewed a "salty, sweet, lemony" potion that he prescribed to Lee for treating his cancer.