Monroe Washington, July 27, 2021.
Trial Guides author Rick Friedman has obtained a $185 million trial verdict against Monsanto in PCB litigation.
A Friedman Rubin trial team led by Rick Friedman, Henry Jones, and Sean Gamble obtained a $185 million verdict in the case of Erickson et. al. v. Monsanto. The case involved three public school teachers who sued Monsanto and its corporate successors for poisoning teachers, students, and parents who attended Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, Washington between 2011 and 2016. The three teachers were the first plaintiffs to reach trial against Monsanto from a group of over 200 teachers, students, and parents exposed to leaking PCB ballasts in fluorescent light fixtures at the school. The verdict follows years of hard-fought litigation between Monsanto, now owned by Bayer Pharmaceuticals, and a group of parents, students, and teachers who refused to give up in their quest for justice.
Monsanto has a shocking history of products that endanger people, including Agent Orange, Roundup, Nutrasweet, PCBs, Synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), and more. Friedman Rubin is one of few law firms to prevail in litigation against Monsanto, a company that has until recently been considered "above the law."
The verdict was more than what was requested by Friedman Rubin’s lead counsel, Rick Friedman. In closing argument, Friedman suggested, at minimum, that the three teachers be awarded $10 million each and punitive damages of three times that award. The jury, however, found that damages should be set at a higher level. It awarded the three teachers compensatory damages totaling $50 million. Teacher Kerry Erickson was awarded $15 million, teacher Michelle Leahy was awarded $18 million, and teacher Michell Marquardt was awarded $17 million in compensatory damages. Michelle Leahy’s husband was awarded $150,000.
But that was not all. The Friedman Rubin trial team successfully argued that Monsanto was subject to punitive damages under Missouri law, where Monsanto made its decisions, even though the case was litigated and tried in Washington state which does not provide for punitive damages in this type of case. The trial court agreed that Missouri law applied. Under the verdict applying Missouri law, Monsanto will be punished for its decisions which led to the poisoning of hundreds of teachers, students, and parents in Washington state. The jury awarded punitive damages of $45 million for each of the three teachers to punish Monsanto for its reckless disregard of safety and to deter other manufacturers from repeating similar reprehensible conduct in the future.
Following the verdict Rick Friedman said: “This is a big step in holding Monsanto accountable for poisoning every man, woman, and child in North America. If politicians won’t make Monsanto clean up its mess, juries will.”
Friedman was kind enough to share the Rules he used to win this case, following his Rules of the Road approach as detailed in Rules of the Road: A Plaintiff Lawyer’s Guide to Proving Liability (coauthored with Pat Malone):
Chemical Industry Safety Customs and Standards
- Chemical manufacturers have a responsibility to make all reasonable efforts to ensure their chemicals do not hurt people.
- Before putting a chemical product on the market, a reasonably careful chemical manufacturer should test to determine the potential dangers of its product to humans.
- Reasonable testing of chemical products includes testing to evaluate potential acute adverse (or toxic) reactions to the product.
- Reasonable testing of chemical products includes testing to evaluate potential human adverse reactions to chronic or long-term exposure to the product.
- Reasonable testing includes animal testing from which human adverse reactions are extrapolated.
- None of the testing should be biased, result-oriented, false or misleading.
- Results of all testing should be accurately and honestly documented and reported.
- Chemical manufacturers should keep abreast of scientific knowledge that may be relevant to the products they produce.
- Even if the government allows a manufacturer to engage in an unsafe practice, manufacturer should not do so.
- Chemical manufacturers should not allow their products to be contaminated with unnecessary toxic substances.
- A chemical manufacturer should warn anyone who could be foreseeably hurt by its chemicals about how to protect themselves.
- If, after a chemical is put on the market, the manufacturer learns of possible additional or increased risks and dangers of its product, it should warn the public and conduct additional investigation and testing.
- When a manufacturer makes a product which is hurting people in unforeseen ways, it should recall that product and warn those who might be hurt by it.
- Chemical manufacturers should be honest with the government, their customers and the public when discussing risks, benefits and potential dangers of their product.
- A company should not destroy documents in order to hide its responsibility for injuries caused.
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To watch the trial, visit CVN's page.