Monsanto to Open Its Wallet Wide Again After Latest Verdict

Jury orders pharma giant to pay $857M to 7 sickened at school in Washington state
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2023 11:36 AM CST
Jury Orders Monsanto to Pay $857M to 7 Sickened at School
In this Oct. 9, 2019, photo, people walk near an entrance at the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, Washington.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Six weeks after a California jury ordered Bayer's Monsanto to pay $332 million to a man who claimed his cancer was caused by Roundup weed killer, a jury in Washington state has ordered the pharmaceutical giant to pay $857 million to seven people who claimed they were likewise sickened by the company's chemicals. That's on top of $870 million already awarded to plaintiffs in earlier cases tied to exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at Sky Valley Education Centre in Monroe, per the Guardian. In this case, five former students and two parent volunteers argued they were sickened by PCBs that leaked from fluorescent light fixtures at the school between seven and 18 years ago, per the BBC.

PCBs could be found in various electrical equipment before they were banned from production in 1979 following links to cancer. Monsanto claims it stopped production in 1977 and the school ignored repeated warnings since the 1990s to have its lights retrofitted. It also claims "the objective evidence in this case, including blood, air, and other tests, demonstrates plaintiffs were not exposed to unsafe levels of PCBs" and that "PCBs could not have caused their alleged injuries," said to include brain damage and autoimmune disorders, per CBS News. However, numerous employees and students have sued the company, arguing they suffered cancer, thyroid conditions, and other issues as a result of exposure to PCBs at Sky Valley. Monsanto is appealing those verdicts.

It will do the same in this case in an effort "to reduce the constitutionally excessive damages awarded," according to a statement. The Supreme Court has said punitive damages shouldn't exceed nine times the compensatory damages, as that would violate defendants' due process rights, per Reuters. In finding Monsanto liable for selling PCBs that weren't safe and lacked adequate warnings, the jury in Seattle ordered the company to pay $73 million in compensatory damages and $112 million in punitive damages to each of the seven plaintiffs, for a total of $784 million. An attorney for the plaintiffs tells CBS, "No one who heard this evidence would ever change places with any of these people in exchange for all the money the jury awarded." (More Monsanto stories.)

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