Resolving the U.S. PCB litigation
More than 15 companies around the world, including Monsanto, manufactured polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) during the 20th century, and thousands of companies used PCBs in their products. PCBs were a safety material that were used in a wide array of products to reduce fire risk. PCBs were also required by many electrical and building codes, as well as by insurance companies, to protect against serious fire risk. Monsanto voluntarily ceased manufacturing PCBs in 1977, two years before the EPA banned their production.
Settling cases alleging PCB contamination of water bodies
In June 2020, we announced settlement agreements involving a class of municipal entities that allege PCB contamination in their bodies of water. We announced that we will pay $650 million to settle these cases. The agreements contain no admission of wrongdoing or liability.
These settlement agreements with the class of municipal entities require court approval. On March 15, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted preliminary approval of the settlement agreements. We are pleased with the Court’s decision and look forward to working with the Court and the parties throughout the remainder of the approval process.
Additionally, we have entered into separate agreements with the Attorneys General of New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Washington to resolve similar PCB cases brought by these states. There are also cases that have been filed by the Attorneys General of Oregon, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
Managing cases alleging personal injury from PCB exposure
Separate from the cases alleging PCB contamination in water bodies, there are cases alleging personal injuries due to PCB exposure in schools and other buildings. These cases are related to the presence of PCBs in building materials that were installed more than 40 years ago. These cases are not included in the settlement agreements announced in June 2020.
The Erickson, Bard and Beutler cases are the first three personal injury cases to go to trial among a number of claims brought by individuals who allege injuries due to PCB exposure at an educational facility in Washington state called the Sky Valley Education Center (SVEC). The alleged exposure comes from fluorescent light ballasts produced decades ago by Monsanto’s customers and installed in the late 1960s. These are historic claims that relate to materials Monsanto has not produced in more than 40 years and are unrelated to any ongoing business of Monsanto, now Bayer. These cases are being tried in groups in the King County Courthouse in Seattle, Washington.
We believe the allegations in these SVEC cases are meritless and Monsanto should not be held liable. Indeed, we believe the evidence is clear that testing reflected extremely low levels of PCBs in this school, well below those permitted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the State of Washington. Additionally, the plaintiffs’ serum tests reflect normal PCB levels found in the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- In June 2021, the Erickson trial began in King County, WA. This case involves personal injury claims alleging exposure to PCBs at an educational facility called Sky Valley Education Center (SVEC). On July 27, the jury found Monsanto liable and awarded the plaintiffs $185 million. We are currently appealing the verdict.
- In September 2021, the Bard trial began in King County, WA. This is the second group of plaintiffs alleging personal injury from exposure to PCBs at SVEC. On November 10, the jury found Monsanto liable and awarded the plaintiffs $62 million. We are currently pursuing post-trial motions and, if necessary, an appeal.
- On February 15, 2022, the Beutler trial began in King County, WA. This is the third group of plaintiffs alleging personal injury from exposure to PCBs at SVEC.