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26 Jul, 2013

Missouri Court Rejects Monsanto Claim that It Had No Duty to Cancer Victims


ST. LOUIS, Mo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– July 24, 2013  – Attorneys at Dallas-based Allen Stewart, P.C. have announced that a panel of three judges from Missouri’s Eastern District Court of Appeals have unanimously rejected Monsanto’s claim that the PCB producer owed no duty to individuals who developed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from exposure to toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Reversing a decision by a St. Louis County trial court, the court of appeals found that there was enough evidence to take Monsanto to trial.

The case represents the first time that injured victims have sought to hold a company accountable for producing a chemical that has contaminated the entire planet, including every person in the United States. The plaintiffs are three lymphoma patients who each have elevated levels of PCBs in their blood. The original Monsanto Co. (now known as “Pharmacia Corp.”) produced more than 99% of all of the PCBs ever used in the United States. Because PCBs are far more persistent in the environment than most other chemicals, PCBs are now a ubiquitous environmental contaminant. Today, PCBs can be found in measurable levels in virtually any sample of soil or air, and also in the food chain. PCBs contaminate fish, dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, and eggs.

Despite the high PCB blood levels measured in the three plaintiffs, they had no occupational exposures to PCBs, and they had no known exposures to PCBs released from a particular industrial facility. Instead, the plaintiffs were exposed in the same way that the entire population is also exposed to PCBs – through their diet and daily exposures to small amounts of PCBs in the general environment.

These three plaintiffs are the first in a group of approximately 600-700 plaintiffs with lawsuits against Monsanto based on the same allegations of high PCB levels and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer confirmed that PCBs, which have been banned in the United States since 1979, are a known human carcinogen. More than 10 published scientific studies have shown that, among the general population, people with higher levels of PCBs in their body are significantly more likely to develop Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The court of appeals found that it was foreseeable that Monsanto’s production and marketing of PCBs, which “by design, would not easily degrade in the environment,” would result in injuries of the type suffered by the plaintiffs in this case.

“We showed the court that Monsanto was the only one who could have stopped PCBs from contaminating the entire environment and ultimately causing the plaintiffs’ cancers,” said Steve Baughman Jensen of Allen Stewart, P.C., “only Monsanto had control over the decision to market PCBs—knowing that they would eventually be released and expose communities to these carcinogens.”

Monsanto will now ask the Missouri Supreme Court to review the decision. If the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, it will likely be set for trial some time in 2014.

In addition to being represented by Allen Stewart, P.C., the three plaintiffs are also represented by Houston law firm Williams, Kherkher, LLP, Dallas/Los Angeles law firm Waters & Kraus, LLP, and The Simon Law Firm in St. Louis.