Jury Hits Monsanto With $275M Verdict In Latest Trial Over PCB Exposure in Washington State School

Posted by David Siegel on Oct 17, 2022 12:56:06 PM

Allison PL closings

CVN screenshot of plaintiffs' attorney Rick Friedman delivering his closing argument

Seattle, WA - A Washington State court jury returned a $275 million verdict last week in the fifth consecutive trial over allegations that long-lasting toxic chemicals manufactured by Bayer-owned agrochemical giant Monsanto in a local school caused serious neurological injuries to students and teachers.

The jury’s verdict consists of $55 million in compensatory damages and $220 million in punitive damages awarded to 13 plaintiffs comprising children and their families who attended the Sky Valley Educational Center.

During trial attorneys for the plaintiffs alleged that exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, caused their clients to suffer a range of neurological injuries, and that some students could face a lifetime of cognitive deficits as a result of the damage they allegedly sustained. 

In a statement issued after the trial concluded Monsanto said it planned to appeal the verdict.

The full trial, which utilized a hybrid format with in-person opening and closing arguments and witness testimony taking place virtually, was webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

PCBs, also referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their extreme durability, were used for a variety of industrial purposes before being banned in the United States in the 1970’s. The trial, like the four that preceded it, specifically dealt with PCBs allegedly present in outdated light fixtures and building caulk used throughout the Sky Valley facility.

Monsanto argued that while PCBs were present at school, they were never found in sufficient amounts to cause the injuries the plaintiffs allegedly sustained. At previous trials and in court filings, the company blamed the Monroe School District where the Sky Valley facility is located for supposedly failing to replace the outdated light fixtures.

Three previous juries returned plaintiff verdicts at earlier Sky Valley PCB trials in the amounts of $62 million, $185 million, and $21 million. The fourth trial ended in a mistrial in July when the deadlocked jury failed to reach a verdict.

All of the Sky Valley PCB trials to date have been recorded gavel-to-gavel by CVN, and they are available with a subscription to CVN’s online trial video library, which also includes hundreds of other trials from throughout the United States featuring many of the country’s top plaintiff and defense trial attorneys.

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Attorney Rick Friedman and Henry Jones of the Washington-based firm Friedman Rubin represented plaintiffs in the three initial trials in addition to the most recent fifth trial. Friedman was joined in the recently concluded case by attorneys Nicholas and Courtney Rowley of Trial Lawyers for Justice.

Friedman issued a statement following the conclusion of the trial describing the verdict as "a reckoning for Monsanto that is long overdue.”

"Monsanto seems totally unconcerned with the harm its PCBs have caused and continue to cause," he said.

His co-counsel Nick Rowley added that PCBs pose a danger to as many as 14 million school aged children nationally.

"The worst thing about it is that 99% of the people who have been harmed don’t know about PCBs," Rowley said. "Today a jury held the company responsible for this harm accountable, but this case is just the tip of the iceberg."

“As parents ourselves, we care deeply about the children, teachers, and families whose lives have been irreparably and forever harmed by PCBs in schools across America,” said Courtney Rowley, co-founder of Trial Lawyers for Justice.

Kristen Rodriguez, Mordecai Boone and Jack Vales of Dentons along with Steve Fogg of the Seattle-based firm Corr Cronin represented Monsanto.

Bayer/Monsanto spokesperson Nicole Hayes said in the company's statement that "undisputed evidence" showed the injuries claimed by the plaintiffs could not be definitively linked to PCB exposure. 

"The air and other tests in evidence reflected either no or extremely low levels of PCBs in this school, and there was no physical evidence introduced at trial showing exposure to PCBs, such as blood testing results. Indeed, the evidence introduced at trial demonstrated the plaintiffs have not experienced neuro-cognitive injuries and are leading productive, normal lives," she said. 

She went on to add that, "...while other acute symptoms were raised in the trial, many if not all of these symptoms were consistent with those caused by the very poor indoor air quality and building condition of the Sky Valley school buildings."

Numerous students, faculty and parents have lawsuits pending against Monsanto involving alleged PCB-related injuries at the Sky Valley facility. The next Sky Valley PCB trial is scheduled to begin next week, and will similarly be webcast gavel-to-gavel by CVN. Another case has a pending trial date for January of next year.

The case ending in last week’s verdict is captioned Allison, et al. v. Monsanto Company, case number 18-2-26074-4 in King County Superior Court, Washington.

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Topics: Products Liability