MDL Sought for Lawsuits Against Monsanto Over PCB Water Contamination

With a number of cities pursuing lawsuits against Monsanto, each involving similar allegations that stormwater and waterbodies were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), a motion has been filed to consolidate all cases pending in the federal court system before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

Monsanto currently faces PCB water contamination lawsuits from the cities of San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, San Diego, Spokane and Seattle, with at least six different complaints filed in four different U.S. District Courts naming the manufacturer as a defendant, together with Solutia, Inc. and Pharmacia, Inc. in some of the claims.

In a motion (PDF) filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on January 26, a group of plaintiffs have filed a request to centralize the cases in one court to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the lawsuits, avoid contradictory pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the cities, defendant and the judicial system.

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Used for a variety of purposes, such as paints, lubricants, electrical products, coolant, hydraulic fluids and in paper production, PCBs have been banned for decades due to high toxicity and increased rates of cancer linked to exposure. However, the lawsuits allege that Monsanto, the sole manufacturer of PCBs from 1935 to 1977, knew or should have known about the risks of PCBs as early as 1955, yet failed to warn the public.

The communities now face tens or hundreds of millions in environmental cleanup costs associated with PCB water contamination.

“Throughout five decades, Monsanto manufactured over a billion pounds of PCB chemicals, despite knowing PCBs were toxic, could not be contained to their original application, and lasted for decades if not longer,” the motion states. “PCBs became a toxic ‘global contaminant,’ in Monsanto’s own words, and Monsanto continued to manufacture, promote, and sell the chemicals, despite its knowledge of global contamination.”

The cities allege that Monsanto’s PCBs are now one of the largest man-made chemical contaminants on Earth, impacting thousands of water bodies, wildlife and sediment because they do not degrade in the environment.

The EPA estimates that there are more than 6,000 water bodies in the U.S. contaminated with PCBs manufactured by Monsanto and they are found in human blood serum.


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