Bayer’s Monsanto Hit With $62M Verdict Over PCB Chemicals In WA State School

Posted by David Siegel on Nov 11, 2021 10:41:58 PM

Bard closings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Rick Friedman delivering his closing argument. Click here to see video from the trial. 

Seattle, WA - A Washington State court jury returned a $62 million verdict on Wednesday against Bayer-owned Monsanto in a lawsuit over injuries allegedly caused by the presence of toxic, long-lasting chemicals in a local school.

Wednesday’s verdict marks the conclusion of the second trial this year stemming from contamination at the Sky Valley Educational Center from polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The case involved allegations that a group of four students, two parents and another adult suffered a range of neurological injuries due to exposure to PCBs in the aging school’s fluorescent light fixtures.

The plaintiffs argued Monsanto, the only manufacturer of PCBs before the chemicals fell out of use decades ago, knew the compounds posed a serious health risk but withheld that information from the public for years. Monsanto maintained that the levels of PCBs at the school were too low to cause the plaintiffs’ claimed injuries and accused the Monroe School District of failing to replace the outdated light fixtures at the school.

The verdict consists of awards of $5 to $8 million for the student plaintiffs and $600,000 to $1.5 million for the adults, in addition to an award of $5 million in punitive damage for each plaintiff due to the application of Missouri law, since Monsanto was formerly headquartered there.

The trial's opening and closing statements took place in-person and were recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network. Witness testimony took place remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions and was not subject to coverage. 

CVN also covered all proceedings in the initial trial earlier this year involving PCBs at the Sky Valley facility, which resulted in an $185 million verdict, currently on appeal. Both that trial and this week’s closing arguments can be viewed with a subscription to CVN’s online trial video library.

In addition to the two Seattle trials, CVN also previously covered two trials in California state court involving alleged injuries due to exposure to Monsanto’s PCB chemicals. Both trials ended in defense verdicts, and they are also included with a CVN video library subscription.

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Attorney Rick Friedman of Friedman Rubin, who represented plaintiffs in the current and previous Sky Valley PCB trials, told CVN after the trial that Monsanto refused to accept responsibility for the “mess” caused by one of the company’s “most profitable” products despite numerous injuries and taxpayers spending billions on PCB cleanup efforts.

“Monsanto’s 80 year history of disseminating misinformation about PCBs is finally catching up with it,” Friedman said. “If Monsanto will not clean up its mess or even warn people of the danger, then we will have to keep holding it accountable for the injuries it causes.”

Bayer issued a statement after the trial saying the company intended to pursue potential post-trial motions and appeals on a range of issues including the application of Missouri law under Washington’s Product Liability Act and the use of “unprecedented methodologies” by plaintiff experts to determine the levels of PCBs at the school.

“We continue to believe that the undisputed evidence in this case does not support the conclusions that plaintiffs were exposed to unsafe levels of PCBs at the Sky Valley Education Center or that any exposure could have possibly caused their claimed injuries. In reality, testing reflected extremely low levels of PCBs in this school, and the plaintiffs’ serum tests reflect normal PCB levels found in the US population according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the company stated.

More lawsuits against Monsanto related to the Sky Valley facility remain pending. The plaintiffs in these first and second cases were selected for bellwether trials from among more than 200 teachers, students and parents who alleged brain injuries from exposure to leaking PCB ballasts in fluorescent light fixtures at the school.

Judge Douglass A. North presided over the trial along with the previous Sky Valley matter.

Monsanto was represented at trial by Shook Hardy & Bacon.

The case is captioned Bard v. Monsanto, et al., case number 18-2-00001-7 SEA in King County Superior Court in Seattle.

Topics: Products Liability, Washington