Monsanto lost a $47 million verdict in St. Louis jury on May 25, 2016. A jury awarded $17.5 million in damages to three people, along with $29 million in punitive damages against Monsanto and three other companies. The PCB lawsuit charged that Monsanto and the others were negligent in PCB production.
The nearly month-long trial ended with a 10-2 verdict in St. Louis Circuit Court. It is one trial among several against Monsanto in the docks. Some Monsanto lawsuits have been won by Monsanto, while several others are pending.
This trial began April 28. It involved just three of nearly 100 plaintiffs. All claim their exposure to PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls – caused them to suffer non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some plaintiffs are dead, with their claims being made by surviving relatives.
Monsanto concealed PCB Dangers
The lawsuit alleges Monsanto knew about PCB dangers decades ago, yet lied to the public, claiming the compounds were safe. Monsanto continued selling PCBs into the 1970s. Rivers, streams, some foods we eat and some things we drink still contain PCBs at measurable levels.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Kherkher of Houston said, “This is the future. People don’t know that PCBs cause cancer and that Monsanto has been suppressing” (that fact).
Monsanto issued a statement saying, “We have deep sympathy for the plaintiffs but we are disappointed by the jury’s decision and plan to immediately appeal today’s ruling.”
The Monsanto statement further tried to dismiss this verdict simply because some other juries in somewhat similar cases had not seen fit to award damages.
In April 2016, a Los Angeles jury rejected claims against Monsanto’s PCBs being linked with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In July 2016, a St. Louis County jury found Monsanto not liable in deaths and illnesses suffered by people exposed to PCBs.
“The evidence simply does not support today’s verdict,” said Monsanto, arguing further, as they had in trial, that “90 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases have no known cause.”
Alaska, Michigan, Oklahoma Plaintiffs
Plaintiffs in this trial hail from Alaska, Michigan and Oklahoma. Other plaintiffs are from several different states, including Missouri.
The Human Health Effects Of PCBs
PCBs – Polychlorinated biphenyls – are a group of 209 different chemicals which share a common structure but vary in the number of attached chlorine atoms. Clearwater.org says, “an estimated 1.3 million pounds of different types of PCBs were dumped into the Hudson River by General Electric from 1946 until 1977, when they were banned. The international treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants, drafted by 122 nations in Johannesburg in December 2000, targeted PCBs as one of the `dirty dozen´ chemicals to be phased out worldwide.”
PCBs probable Human Carcinogen
The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency classify PCBs as a probable human carcinogen. The National Toxicology Program has concluded PCBs are reasonably likely to cause cancer in humans. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has determined that PCBs are a potential occupational carcinogen.
PCB Cancer in Humans
Studies of PCBs in humans have found increased rates of melanomas, liver cancer, gall bladder cancer, biliary tract cancer, gastrointestinal tract cancer, brain cancer, PCBs may also be linked to breast cancer. PCBs are known to cause a variety of types of cancer in rats, mice, and other study animals.
Monsanto: 42 years of PCBs
Monsanto was the primary U.S. manufacturer of PCBs from 1935 until 1977 when they were banned by Congress. PCBs were used in many products, including food packaging, paint, and industrial equipment.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote this week that the old Monsanto Chemical Co. which made PCBs no longer exists. Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, which now engineers agricultural seeds and makes herbicides, is handling PCB claims. The other defendants are Solutia, spun off by old Monsanto in 1997; Pharmacia, which absorbed part of the old Monsanto; and Pfizer, which merged with Pharmacia in 2003.
Monsanto loses $47 Million Verdict
One juror told a St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter that all of the jury agreed “Monsanto was negligent.” Another juror said the verdict showed companies can put harmful products into the environment but that sooner or later justice is going to be served, “whether it’s a year after the products are put out, or in this case, 80 years.”
Cities file PCB Claims
Some U.S. cities have filed ongoing PCB claims for the considerable cleanup costs these chemicals trigger. Spokane, Washington filed a lawsuit last year, and in January 2016, Seattle also sued Monsanto for the costs of PCB cleanup. Those cases remain pending.