Monsanto should pay $857 million in PCB case, jury rules

A Washington state jury ruled Monday that Monsanto should pay $857 million to former students and parent volunteers who said they were exposed at a school to dangerous chemicals made by the company and then became ill, according to court records.

The Seattle Superior Court jury said Monsanto must pay $73 million in compensatory damages and $784 million in punitive damages to five students who attended the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, Washington, at northeast Seattle, and to two parents who had volunteered there.

The former students and their parents said they became ill from chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, that leaked from the school’s light fixtures, according to Henry Jones, the attorney for the plaintiffs. The chemicals in the lights were manufactured by Monsanto, bought by Bayer in 2018.

The verdict, which will be reviewed by a judge, would add to billions of dollars in similar amounts awarded by juries that have troubled Bayer in the years since its acquisition of Monsanto.

Mr. Jones said in an email Monday after the verdict: “No one who heard this testimony would ever trade places with any of these people in exchange for all the money awarded by the jury.” »

Monsanto said in a statement Monday that it plans to appeal to overturn the verdict and challenge the “constitutionally excessive damages awarded.”

“The objective evidence in this case, including blood, air and other tests, demonstrates that plaintiffs were not exposed to dangerous levels of PCBs, and that PCBs could not have caused their injuries alleged,” the company said.

The plaintiffs include former students and parent volunteers who attended Sky Valley Education Center beginning in 2005, according to court documents. They claim they suffered neurological, neurophysiological, endocrine and autoimmune problems after being exposed to chemicals at school, according to court documents.

The Monroe School District, which includes Sky Valley Education Center in Washington state, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.

PCBs were regularly found in commercial products and industrial equipment, such as lighting, until they were banned in the United States in 1979 over concerns that they would harm people and the environment, according to the organism. Environmental Protection Agency.

Products containing PCBs are no longer produced commercially in the United States, but the chemicals may still be present in products manufactured before they were banned, according to the EPA.

According to the EPA, conclusive evidence has shown that PCBs can cause cancer in animals and harm their immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. The chemicals were classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans, according to the agency.

Since Bayer purchased Monsanto, the company has faced costly legal battles over chemicals produced by Monsanto, such as the weedkiller Roundup.

Bayer agreed to pay $10 billion in 2020 to settle claims that Roundup caused cancer, one of the largest settlements of its kind. The company said it has set aside an additional $6 billion for current lawsuits and others that may be filed later.