Monsanto Ordered to Pay $46.5 Million in Damages in PCBs Lawsuit

A St. Louis jury returned a $46.5 million verdict for three plaintiffs who claimed they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma because of Monsanto’s negligent in the production of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)

The award consisted of $17.5 million in damages and $29 million in punitive damages, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The trial, which began on April 28, lasted nearly a month. The trial is the latest in a series of lawsuits, some of them still pending.

From 1935 until the late 1970s, Monsanto was the primary U.S. manufacturer of PCBs. PCBs were used in wide variety of products, including food packaging, industrial equipment, and paint. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals as well as a number of serious non-cancer health effects. PCBS can affect the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and they cause other health problems. Studies in humans provide evidence of potential carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects of PCBs. The different health effects of PCBs may be interrelated: alterations in one body system may have significant implications for other systems of the body.

The case just decided involved three of nearly 100 plaintiffs who claim that exposure to PCBs caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, part of the immune syste. Surviving family members made the claims for those who had died. The plaintiffs in this trial are from Alaska, Michigan and Oklahoma.

The lawsuit claims that Monsanto has known of the dangers for decades but told the public the compounds were safe. Though PCBs have not been produced in more than 30 years, rivers, streams and some food humans consume still contain some levels of PCBs, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Monsanto, while expressing “deep sympathy” for the plaintiffs, said it is disappointed by the verdict and plans to appeal the decision. The company said verdicts in four trials involving similar claims about PCB exposure show that the “evidence simply does not support today’s verdict, including the fact that scientists say more than 90 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases have no known cause.”

Monsanto Chemical Co. has evolved over the years and is no longer the same company as it was when it manufactured PCBs. Monsanto is now an agribusiness giant, producing engineered agricultural seeds and herbicides. The other defendants are Solutia, which spun off by the old Monsanto in 1997; Pharmacia, which absorbed part of the old Monsanto; and Pfizer, which merged with Pharmacia in 2003.

According to one of the jurors, “All of us could pretty much agree that Monsanto was negligent.” Another juror said, “justice is going to be served whether it’s a year after the products are put out, or in this case, 80 years.”

Earlier this year, a Los Angeles jury rejected claims against Monsanto over non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In July 2015, a St. Louis County jury found Monsanto not liable in deaths and illnesses related to PCB exposure. Spokane, Washington and Seattle, Washington both have PCB cases pending against Monsanto.

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