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Monsanto to blame for PCB exposure, cancer, suit argued

Amount:

$46,475,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Missouri

Venue:

St. Louis County

Court:

St. Louis City Circuit Court

Injury Type(s):

other-death cancer

Case Type:

Toxic Torts; Gross Negligence; Products Liability – Food, Failure to Warn

Case Name:

Benito Walker, William Luce, Jr., Barbara Austin, Elaine Case, Annette Day, Dorothy Eads, Paul Foster, Jr., Mason Geisinger, Mary-Ann Hernandez, Karen Hill, Ira Karbeling, Theresa Lewis, Daniel Mitchell, Arnold L. Versaw, Jr., Harry Wilson, Marian L. Greenhalgh, Robert Laliberte, Robert J. Blum, Jr., Norma Ortiz, Horace Sisco, Joanne V. Kolinski, Leroy Rausch, Richard Webman, Richard Reinhold, Patrick Abrahamson, Karin Copeland, George Babcock, Dorothy Crane, Kathleen Jubrey, Charles W. Spencer, Judy Holten, Joseph Hauser, Jeffrey A. Bobrovsky, Gwendolyn Carter, Paula Dewey, Eddie Horn, Sharon Lakey, Nancy K. McKaig, Gladys Rivera, Eduardo Vielmas, Donna Allshouse, John Collins, Jerry A. Shelton, Randall Barton, James L. Barrow, Marie L. Brower, Ted Connor, Rose M. Taylor, Johnny Davis, Joni R. Dunn, Jeffery W. Egbert, Casey Eldredge, David Franklin, Frank Hoppen, et al v. Monsanto Chemical Co., Monsanto Agricultural Company, Solutia, Pharmacia Corporation and Pfizer Inc.,
No. 1122-CC09621-01

Date:

May 25, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Clara Dunem (Female), 

Rick Reinhold (Male), 

Debbie Reinhold (Female), 

William Luce, Jr. (Male)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Allen M. Stewart;
Allen Stewart, P.C.;
Dallas,
TX,
for
Clara Dunem, Rick Reinhold, Debbie Reinhold, William Luce, Jr. ■ Steven J. Kherkher;
Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas LLP;
Houston,
TX,
for
Clara Dunem, Rick Reinhold, Debbie Reinhold, William Luce, Jr. ■ Erica Slater;
The Simon Law Firm P.C.;
St. Louis,
MO,
for
Clara Dunem, Rick Reinhold, Debbie Reinhold

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Ron Schiff; M.D.; Oncology; Tampa,
FL called by:
Steven J. Kherkher ■ Barry Levy; M.D.; Epidemiology (Cancer); Sherborn,
MA called by:
Allen M. Stewart, Steven J. Kherkher, Erica Slater ■ David Carpenter; M.D.; Public Health; Albany,
NY called by:
Steven J. Kherkher ■ Gerald Markowitz; Ph.D.; Public Health; New York,
NY called by:
Steven J. Kherkher ■ Kristan Aronson; PhD; Epidemiology (Cancer); called by:
Allen M. Stewart, Steven J. Kherkher, Erica Slater ■ Richard DeGrandchamp; Ph.D.; Toxicology; Evergreen,
CO called by:
Steven J. Kherkher

Defendant(s):

Phizer, 

Solutia, 

Pharmacia, 

Monsanto Chemical Co., 

Monsanto Agricultural Company

Defense Attorney(s):

James F. Bennett;
Dowd Bennett LLP;
St. Louis,
MO,
for
Monsanto Chemical Co., Monsanto Agricultural Company ■ Thomas M. Goutman;
White and Williams LLP;
Philadelphia,
PA,
for
Monsanto Chemical Co., Monsanto Agricultural Company ■ Adam J. Spicer;
Butler Snow LLP;
Ridgeland,
MS,
for
Monsanto Chemical Co., Monsanto Agricultural Company ■ Robyn D. Buck;
Husch Blackwell LLP;
St. Louis,
MO,
for
Monsanto Chemical Co., Monsanto Agricultural Company

Defendant Expert(s):

Dean Felsher;
Oncology;
Stanford,
CA called by:
James F. Bennett, Thomas M. Goutman ■ Greg Jones;
Transportation;
Santa Cruz,
CA called by:
James F. Bennett, Thomas M. Goutman ■ David Eaton;
Toxicology;
Seattle,
WA called by:
James F. Bennett, Thomas M. Goutman ■ Harri Kytomaa;
Mechanical;
Natick,
MA called by:
James F. Bennett, Thomas M. Goutman ■ Peter Shields;
Epidemiology (Cancer);
Washington,
DC called by:
James F. Bennett, Thomas M. Goutman ■ Kenneth Carson;
Oncology;
St. Louis,
MO called by:
James F. Bennett, Thomas M. Goutman ■ Maureen Reitman;
Polymer Processing;
Bowie,
MD called by:
James F. Bennett, Thomas M. Goutman

Facts:

Between 1935 and 1977, Monsanto Chemical Co. manufactured polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), which was used in products such as food packaging, industrial equipment, and paint. During this time, plaintiffs Bill Luce and Clara Dunem and decedent Rick Reinhold developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The plaintiffs alleged that exposure to PCB within the food chain caused their illness. Luce, Dunem, and Reinhold’s widow, Debbie Reinhold, sued Monsanto Chemical Co., alleging gross negligence. Plaintiffs’ counsel alleged that Monsanto was aware of the dangers posed by PCBs but continued to manufacture it and allow individuals to be exposed to the chemicals. Further, plaintiffs’ counsel cited internal Monsanto documents, which they claimed suggested a deliberate misinformation campaign regarding the health hazards of PCBs. Although nearly 100 plaintiffs were initially named in the suit, only claims by Luce, Dunem, and Reinhold went to trial. The plaintiffs’ expert epidemiologist testified that, based on medical literature and studies of the general population, worker studies, and individual cases, there is a link between PCBs and the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Another epidemiologist and the plaintiffs’ expert oncologist both confirmed that PCBs were the specific cause of the three plaintiffs’ illness. A public health historian retained by plaintiffs’ counsel testified that Monsanto was aware of the harmful effects of PCBs prior to 1977, the year the U.S. Congress banned PCBs production. The plaintiffs’ public health expert testified that PCBs have contaminated the global food chain. The plaintiffs’ toxicologist discussed studies of PCBs and their harmful impact on DNA. Companies including Solutia, Pharmacia, and Pfizer were initially named as defendants but claims against them were discontinued. Because Monsanto Chemical Co. is no longer an existing corporation, the PCBs claims were brought against affiliated company Monsanto Agricultural Co. Defense counsel for Monsanto denied liability, arguing that reasonable action was taken to prevent further exposure to PCBs. Counsel further argued that there was no proven link between PCBs and lymphoma. A spokesperson for Monsanto testified that appropriate action was taken by the corporation, once it became aware of the potential danger posed by PCBs. The defense’s epidemiologist stated in testimony that there was no link between PCBs and lymphoma and argued that the worst side-effect of PCB exposure is a skin rash. The defense’s expert oncologists also denied any link between PCBs and cancer. The defense called experts in the fields of plastics and mechanical engineering to testify as to the usefulness of PCBs in industrial applications. Plaintiffs’ counsel counter-argued that these witnesses were not relevant to the case.

Injury:

The plaintiffs each developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Luce and Dunem’s conditions are currently in remission. Reinhold died from to the condition on March 19, 2011. Dunem and Luce claimed damages for mental anguish and suffering, with counsel requesting damages of $2 million to $5 million each. In addition, Debbie Reinhold sought $5 million to $10 million for a loss of consortium claim.

Result:

The jury found that Monsanto was grossly negligent and reckless. The plaintiffs were awarded $17,525,000 in damages. They were also awarded $28,950,000 in punitive damages. The total award was $46,475,000. Under Missouri law, the Reinholds are not entitled to punitive damages.

Clara Dunem: $14,475,000 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages; $4,000,000 Personal Injury: Actual Damages; Debbie Reinhold: $10,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Loss Of Consortium

Trial Information:

Judge:

Elizabeth Byrne Hogan

Trial Length:

3
 weeks

Trial Deliberations:

1
 days

Jury Vote:

10 to 2

Jury Composition:

8 female/ 4 male

Post Trial:

Defense counsel intends to appeal the verdict.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.