PCB Lawsuit Against Monsanto Declared A Mistrial

A St. Louis County circuit court judge declared a mistrial in a PCB lawsuit against Monsanto Company.

According to the lawsuit, Monsanto was accused of being negligent in the production and marketing of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, when the company was the primary U.S. manufacturer of PCBs from 1929 to 1977.

The plaintiffs alleged that Monsanto and its related companies, Solutia, Pharmacia, and pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc., were responsible for a number of deaths and illnesses of people exposed to PCBs manufactured by the company before being banned in the late 1970s.

Research Biologist Heidi Windler
Research Biologist Heidi Windler takes tissue samples from genetically modified corn plants inside a climate chamber housed in Monsanto agribusiness headquarters in St Louis, Missouri. (Photograph by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.)

A St. Louis County jury deliberated Tuesday through Friday last week, but they were deadlocked — unable to reach a verdict. According to a St. Louis County Circuit Court clerk, after an entire day of deliberations Monday, Judge Steven Goldman declared a mistrial.

St. Louis Business Journal reports a statement by a Monsanto spokesperson.

“We respect the judge’s decision to declare a mistrial, as the jury was deadlocked. The evidence simply doesn’t support the assertion that Monsanto’s conduct or the historic use of PCB products was the cause of the plaintiffs’ harms.”

The PCB trial against Monsanto involved plaintiffs from around the country and lasted close to a month. Attorneys Steve Jensen — an attorney with Dallas, Texas-based law firm Allen Stewart PC and St. Louis-based The Simon Law Firm PC represented the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs’ claim against Monsanto included allegations that people developed blood cancer after exposure to PCBs manufactured primarily by Monsanto, and that Monsanto continued to produce PCBs even when they were aware of dangers they presented.

To some extent, this latest lawsuit against Monsanto was complicated by the fact that the original Monsanto Chemical Co. no longer exists, which resulted in the plaintiffs including four different companies in the list of defendants.

Additional defendants named in the lawsuit included Pharmacia, formed out of a then-pharmaceutical division of Monsanto before the two companies diverged in 2002, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., which merged with Pharmacia in 2003, and Solutia, a chemical business branch from Monsanto in 1997.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch cites the lawsuit filed against Monsanto, Solutia, Pharmacia, and Pfizer, was an attempt for plaintiffs to seek relief after they allegedly developed lymphohematopoietic cancer after being exposed to PCBs made by Monsanto.

According to the lawsuit, from 1929 to 1977, Monsanto was the primary U.S. manufacturer of PCBs used in a variety of products, including paint and food packaging, before being banned in the late 1970s.

The lawsuit also included allegations that Monsanto was negligent in the production and marketing of PCBs, which do not readily degrade in the environment or the human body. The lawsuit cited that Monsanto continued to sell PCBs, despite knowing they could harm people.

Technician With Seed Chipping Machine
Images of advanced seed chipping machines and their technicians inside Monsanto agribusiness headquarters. (Photograph by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.)

According to a brief statement in the lawsuit, Monsanto’s conduct was extremely unethical and harmful to human and environmental health.

“Such conduct was gross and flagrant and done with a reckless disregard for human life and for the safety of others.”

Nevertheless, the lawsuit ended in a mistrial finding that Monsanto is not liable in a string of deaths and illnesses suffered by people who were exposed to the PCBs manufactured by the agriculture giant.

It’s not clear what kind of impact this latest ruling will have on other pending litigation involving Monsanto and its PCB history. Other cases similar to this recent lawsuit against the companies have failed at trials in St. Louis County and Los Angeles, California.

Earlier this month, attorney Steve Jensen said that his firm and its partners represent more than 700 plaintiffs with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who have filed cases over PCBs. Jensen added the claims from the trial against Monsanto that ended Friday would have to be retried at a date yet to be determined.

[Featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]

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