A Washington state jury ruled on Monday that Bayer’s Monsanto must pay $857 million to seven former students and parent volunteers from a school near Seattle. They claimed that exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the company’s chemicals, which leaked from light fixtures, caused them harm.
The jury in Seattle found Monsanto accountable for selling unsafe PCBs to the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, Washington, lacking adequate warnings. The awarded amount comprises $73 million in compensatory damages and $784 million in punitive damages.
The plaintiffs, including former students and parents from 7 to 18 years ago, attributed neurological and endocrine health issues to PCB exposure at the school.
Monsanto plans to challenge the verdict, denoting it as “constitutionally excessive,” aiming for an overturn or reduction of the decision. The company faces previous verdicts totaling $870 million related to alleged PCB exposure at the Sky Valley center in other cases, all under appeal.
While Monsanto contends that tests showed no unsafe PCB levels among employees at the school, PCB exposure has been linked in lawsuits to cancer and various health problems. The chemicals were banned in 1979 due to their cancer-causing properties.
The company ceased PCB production in 1977 and claimed it had warned the school since the 1990s about necessary light fixture modifications, alleging the warnings were disregarded.
Legal agreements suggest that though the lawsuits name Monsanto spinoff Pharmacia as the defendant, Monsanto is likely to bear the financial liabilities from the verdicts due to historical chemical production agreements.