Monsanto ordered to pay $857 million to 7 people who got sick from PCB exposure in a Washington school
12/22/2023 // Cassie B. // Views

Monsanto, the agrochemical company that is now owned by German pharmaceutical company Bayer, was ordered by a jury in Washington State to pay $857 million to seven individuals connected to a Seattle area school who became ill due to exposure to chemicals known as PCBs that leaked from light fixtures.

The jury determined that the company should be held liable for selling the chemicals that were used at the school because they were unsafe and did not come with sufficient warnings. The amount of the verdict includes $784 million in punitive damages as well as $73 million of compensatory damages to the victims. Each victim will receive a various amount of compensation and $112 million in punitive damages.

The lawsuit was related to exposure at the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, Washington. Two parent volunteers and five former students say that they developed health concerns related to their neurological and endocrine systems as a result of the exposure.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in the past for insulating electrical equipment. They were also used in common products such as paint, floor finish, carbon copy paper and caulking. After they were linked to cancer, the U.S. government banned them in 1979.

However, the chemicals remain present in the environment and are known as "forever chemicals" because they break down extremely slowly. They also accumulate in the environment and have been found in meat and fish used for human consumption. They are especially harmful to children, which is why their use in schools is so concerning. Roughly 55,000 schools were constructed in the peak decades of the production of this chemical, and Monsanto was its only commercial manufacturer.

Henry Jones, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told CBS News: "No one who heard this evidence would ever change places with any of these people in exchange for all the money the jury awarded."

Another attorney for the plaintiffs, Felix Luna, told the jury that Monsanto had been covering up what it knew about the dangers of PCBs for years.

“Monsanto... never warned anyone that (PCBs) would outlast whatever they're put in," he said during his closing argument. "They never warned anyone that when it gets in the body that they're metabolites for life, that they're neurotoxic... a hazard, or PCBs could lead to systemic poisoning."

Monsanto said that it believes the award is “constitutionally excessive," and they plan to appeal the verdict.

Monsanto is losing numerous trials and billions of dollars over its toxic products

The result of this case is just one of numerous trial losses for Monsanto, who is facing $870 million in verdicts related to PCB exposure. They are also facing thousands of lawsuits related to their toxic weed killer Roundup; they were ordered to pay $332 million last month to a man whose exposure to Roundup led him to develop cancer.

A Missouri jury ordered the company to pay four plaintiffs who developed cancer as a result of exposure to Roundup a sum of $1.56 billion after finding that the company was liable for claims of design defects, failing to warn about the dangers of the chemical and negligence. Each of the four victims was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup on family property.

Roughly 165,000 claims have been made against Monsanto for personal injuries connected to Roundup, whose main ingredient is glyphosate. The company's current owner, Bayer, settled most of the Roundup cases that were pending after they acquired the company for around $11 billion. However, regulatory filings show that around 50,000 claims are still pending.

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