Monsanto Told to Pay Teachers $185 Million Over PCB Exposure (2)

July 28, 2021, 12:26 AM

Bayer AG’s Monsanto unit must pay $185 million to three teachers who blamed their brain injuries on exposure to the company’s PCBs at a school in Washington state.

A state jury in Seattle awarded $50,150,000 in actual damages, and $135 million in punitive damages to the teachers following a six-week trial, which was broadcast by Courtroom View Network. The jury deliberated 1 1/2 days before reaching the verdict Tuesday afternoon.

The teachers claimed they were exposed to PCBs from fluorescent lighting in the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, Washington, and caulk used in its walls. They claimed the Snohomish Health District knew of the presence of PCBs at the school long before it took remedial action.

Bayer said it disagreed with the jury’s verdict and plans to appeal, if necessary.

“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 (SVEC) or that any exposure could have possibly caused their claimed injuries,” Bayer said in an emailed statement. “In reality, testing reflected extremely low levels of PCBs in this school.”

Cities’ Claims

Bayer has separately agreed to pay $650 million to hundreds of U.S. cities, counties and ports that sued over toxic PCB contamination. The proposed deal has faced pushback from a federal judge in Los Angeles. Bayer also faces claims from farmers and consumers who allege the Roundup weedkiller causes cancer.

The litigation over both Roundup and PCBs remains a lingering obstacle for Bayer from its purchase of Monsanto as settlement processes drag on.

PCBs -- or polychlorinated biphenyl -- were made exclusively by Monsanto and used to cool heavy-duty electrical equipment before being banned in the 1970s. The non-biodegradable chemicals sometimes fouled manufacturing areas and the pollutants ended up in the soil. PCBs would also run into major water bodies when it rained, killing fish and making the water a health hazard.

The Washington state jury found that Monsanto’s products were not safe as designed and lacked adequate warning labels.

The jury awarded the three teachers $15 million, $17 million and $18 million in actual damages and gave each $45 million in punitive damages.

This was the first personal injury case to go to trial “involving a relatively small number of approximately 200 claims that allege injuries due to PCB exposure at a single school, the SVEC, from fluorescent light ballasts produced decades ago,” Bayer said in the statement. “These light ballasts were decades beyond their useful life, energy inefficient, and obsolete.”

(Updates with length of deliberations in second paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Robert Burnson in San Francisco at rburnson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Tina Davis at tinadavis@bloomberg.net

Joe Schneider

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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