A Washington state jury awarded $185 million to three teachers who said toxic chemicals produced by Monsanto were left in light fixtures at their school and caused them brain damage, awarding $50 million total compensatory damages and $45 million to each plaintiff in punitive damages.
Kerry Erickson was awarded $15 million in compensatory damages, Michelle Leahy awarded $18 million and Joyce Marquardt $17 million, while one of the teacher’s husbands was awarded $150,000.
The teachers argued at trial that polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were slowly being released from old fluorescent light fixtures and classroom caulk in a school building decades after regulators clamped down on their use, causing their debilitating brain damage.
For decades, Monsanto sold the dielectric liquids under the name Aroclor, making 1.2 billion pounds of PCBs in total from the 1930s to the 1970s because of the liquids’ powerful electrical protection and insulation properties.
The highly toxic thermal insulation fluid filled hundreds of small capacitor ballast boxes in the fluorescent light fixtures at a school building that the Sky Valley Education Center took over in 2011.
The company knew of the now-banned chemicals’ extreme toxicity for decades, understanding that it caused skin problems back to the 1930s, and the company said as recently as 2009 the scientific evidence shows no causal link between exposure to PCBs and cancer or other significant human illnesses.
Monsanto argued that testing at the school site did not show the levels of contamination suggested by the plaintiffs, but the majority of the jurors did not agree.