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Monsanto gets $185m PCB verdict tossed in Washington

Monsanto gets $185m PCB verdict tossed in Washington
Roundup weed killing products are offered for sale at a home improvement store on May 14, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Bayer AG’s Monsanto unit persuaded an appeals court in Washington state to throw out a $185-million jury award to three former teachers at a Seattle-area school who blamed exposure to the firm’s toxic chemicals for their brain injuries. 

A three-judge panel on Wednesday found flaws in the 2021 trial over claims that Monsanto’s polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, caused the illnesses. The teachers said the chemicals leaked from lights in the school. The 2-1 ruling by the state’s intermediate appellate court sets up a possible retrial. 

The case is the first of more than half a dozen verdicts with combined damages of more than $1.5-billion to reach the appeals court over alleged PCB exposure at the Sky Valley Education Centre.

Monsanto called the ruling “very significant” because it may have implications for other verdicts.

“The company will consider its legal options regarding the application of this ruling to other SVEC verdicts that are in conflict with it, as well as how this ruling could affect any future trials,” the chemical maker said in an emailed statement.

Rick Friedman, a Seattle lawyer that represented the teachers, said he plans to appeal the decision. “We always knew this case was headed for the state Supreme Court.  We believe we will ultimately prevail there, but even if we don’t, we will still win these cases at the trial level, following the rules laid out by the Court of Appeals.”

Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018 for $63-billion, has been dealing with multiple costly legal fights it inherited from the US maker of seeds and herbicides, including thousands of lawsuits alleging that its Roundup weed killer causes cancer. 

Bayer’s top-end exposure in PCB contamination claims from US states and individuals could exceed $2.5-billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. The company has already paid out more than $650-million in settlements of lawsuits filed by US cities and counties over pollution of waterways.

The ruling on Wednesday follows a judge’s decision last week to halve a $784-million punitive-damage award to seven other women who contend they were sickened by PCB exposure at the school.

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  • Deon Botha-Richards says:

    That’s the problem with rial by jury. Cleaver slick talking lawyers can convince non professionals just about any tales. Especially if it’s against big pharma or corporate giants who are obviously putting profits ahead of care…

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