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Monsanto Pays 93 Million to Victims In Settlement

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February 27th, 2012
Updated 11/04/2012 at 8:26 pm
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By: Cassandra Anderson

moneybills 210x131 Monsanto Pays 93 Million to Victims In SettlementMonsanto tentatively agreed to a $93 million settlement with some residents of Nitro, West Virginia. Nitro is a small town that got its name from manufacturing explosives during WWI.  It was also the site of a Monsanto chemical plant that manufactured 2,4,5-T herbicide that was half of the Agent Orange recipe. Herbicide 2,4,5-T was contaminated with the caustic by-product dioxin. This settlement may open the floodgates to successfully suing Monsanto for its poison.

Nitro Settlement

Herbicide 2,4,5-T was phased out in the late 1970′s. Dioxin is the most dangerous chemical known and has a 100 year half-life when leached into soil or embedded in water systems. The Veteran’s Administration recognizes and pays out on Agent Orange injury claims that include cancer, birth defects in children of exposed victims, leukemia, liver disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes and chloracne.

Despite an explosion in the Nitro plant in 1949, not a single penny has been paid to residents of Nitro for dioxin injuries, per an attorney that worked on a previous dioxin case. After 7 years of litigation, and on the heels of the EPA releasing part of its dioxin assessment report,  Monsanto has made a tentative agreement to settle a class action suit with some Nitro residents for a total of $93 million.  Here are the proposed settlement figures:

  • Medical Testing:  $21 Million
  • Additional Screening:  $63 Million
  • Cleanup of 4500 homes:  $9 Million

Bloomberg reports that this settlement will reduce Monsanto’s 2012 net income by 5 cents per share, but Monsanto may face additional lawsuits and fines. There are potentially 80,000 property damage claims alone that could cost Monsanto $3.9 billion in cleanup costs. Dioxin has contaminated soil and has been found in dust in residents’ homes at very high levels.

Nitro Residents vs. Monsanto

Several months ago, the judge in the Nitro case issued a gag order in this case, which was unusual, so details are a bit sketchy. It is unclear whether the following evidence was introduced:

1. Monsanto is alleged to have burned dioxin waste in open pits, spewing dioxin and its ash into the air and polluting land.

2. The EPA recommended that Monsanto be criminally investigated for fraud in covering-up dioxin contamination in its products, including 2,4,5-T herbicide. Monsanto failed to report contamination, substituted false information to show no contamination or sent in “doctored” samples of their products devoid of dioxin to government regulators.

3. The EPA recommended that Monsanto be criminally investigated for fraud in falsifying health studies. These flawed studies that concluded dioxin did not cause cancer and other negative health effects (except chloracne) were used to deny benefits to Viet Nam veterans.

4. Solutia, a Monsanto spin-off company that once owned its Nitro plant, was found by the EPA to have many deteriorating drums of dioxin buried near the Kanawha River. The Nitro plant produced dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T from 1949 to 1971.

Agent Orange Government Contractor Immunity

In the past, both Monsanto and Dow Chemical enjoyed government immunity as government contractors under numerous outrageous rulings by Judge Jack Weistein, according to journalist Laura Akgulian.

Dr. Gerson Smoger’s huge body of evidence in another case appears to point to intentional fraud by Agent Orange manufacturers, but the Supreme Court refused to hear Smoger’s case to allow veterans to sue producers.  And Agent Orange producers’ immunity continued. Here are a few examples of reasons why manufacturers should be denied immunity:

1. 2,4,5-T herbicide makers engaged in defective manufacturing of 2,4,5-T by cooking it at a high temperature when they knew that slow cooking would eliminate dioxin.

2. Dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T was not a new chemical, but had been produced since the 1940′s, so it was not created specifically for government purposes.

3. The US government appears to have had no knowledge dioxin contamination or its hazards in 2,4,5-T, but the manufacturers did.

Spaulding vs. Monsanto | Immunity Denied

In a separate case, the Spauldings, former residents of Nitro, filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court against Monsanto for allegedly burning toxic dioxin waste in open fire pits. In late 2011, Judge Paul Gardephe denied Monsanto’s request for summary judgement for its government contractor immunity defense because Monsanto failed to prove that the government was aware and sanctioned Monsanto’s open pit burning of dioxin waste in Nitro.

This case has some promise because the judge appears to be aware of limits to immunity. Stuart Calwell, the attorney in the Nitro case that was just settled is also representing the plaintiffs in this case.

Conclusion

Property damage from dioxin contamination may be less difficult to prove than dioxin-related medical injuries. For instance, cancer can incubate in the body for decades, so it would be hard to prove that dioxin exposure was the direct cause of the cancer.

However, the judges in the West Virginia court case deemed civil engineer Robert Carr’s testimony inadmissible and blocked it, using the excuse that the cost for cleanup was too speculative as it ranged between $945,000 to $3.9 billion. The wide range is due to factors like how much property would be remedied and the level of cleanup, that may include incinerating contaminated soil in a kiln. The judges should have allowed a jury to determine those facts. Dioxin is not safe at any level, so costs could skyrocket easily.

Additionally, the judges decertified the property damage cases, which means that each plaintiff must sue individually, instead of as a group in a class action suit. Lawsuits of this nature can cost upwards of $200,000, so individuals may be discouraged form suing. However, Monsanto just offered $9 million to clean some houses, so there appears to be merit to the property damage complaint.

People can sue individually under one lawyer (not a class action suit) to defray legal costs. An environmental attorney advised that these people may also sue for negligence, nuisance, trespass and battery. If punitive damages were awarded, 900% over the cost of the damage could be assessed against Monsanto.

The case settled without any finding of wrongdoing by Monsanto. This is appears to be the reason why they agreed to the settlement — to avoid accountability and punitive damage charges. The $93 million is chump change for Monsanto an will barely affect their share prices. Monsanto has now set a precedent for settling claims, and hopefully some good attorneys will seize the opportunity in order to hold Monsanto accountable.

From around the web:

  • Susan

    Reading this for the first time I wonder if the settlement money has been paid to the victims? Can we get an update on this article?

    For others here with Agent Orange problems, I suggest you get in contact with http://covvha.net to see what help might be available. There are a lot of resources on this site.

    How can we let this monster Monsanto control our food? Get involved people.

  • Lori Bergfeld

    more on Monsanto:

    So-called 'Monsanto riders,' quietly slipped into the multi-billion dollar FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill, would require – not just allow, but require – the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed. All the farmer or the biotech producer has to do is ask.

  • Janet

    I want to sue them, how do I get it started? Anybody?

  • EDWARD L NUNYAS

    i need help in 1996 i started working .hauling farm chemicals .in 2000 to 2009 i hospitalized over 20 times .i belive roundup and prowl .are responsible for my immune system being destroyed .three years ago at mayo clinic in rochester mn .i had a simple throat biopsy within a short time all my joints went out shoulders elbows hips knees .they have did one knee replacement and two shoulder surgerys .at 100,000 charged to medicare and 30,000 in meds the mayo clinic refuses to see me as a patient .i used to have a good life i made 28 per hr and drove truck loved life work .now all 3 surgerys were disaster i have no cartilidge in my body something destroyed it in four days i went to 4 ers begging for help one hospital tried .i belive these chemicals weakened my immune system i hauled off and on for 12 yrs only few months a yr but monsanto and elavators would only give us so many rubber gloves .i wake up every 15 to 30- min screaming in pain .now im only 54 and i get 800 a month after medication s .i have been shipped from doc to doc nobody wants my case because they all know its from my job activities and mayo clinics speading infectious arthritus thur my body when they did a simple throat biopsy .even mayos web site says infectous arthritus can be spread from medical proceduders involving ear nose throat to 20,000 unlucky americans per yr .and it also states failure to diagnose will result in substanial malpractice lawsuit if not cauaght in er .indicators prolonged bout of pnenoinia i have that every yr .prone to infections same since 2001 and working with herbicides also all doc would have had to do was give me antibiotics sent me home but she was watching super bowl didnt want to be disturbed she wrote in er report i think he seeking pain meds .now that report has stuck with me i cant even get tylenol because of that report .my pain level now is a ten .and no doctor wantsa tro treat mew because i have to take so many narcotics fentenal dilada oxy codone morophine only thing helps but our goverment scares them atleasts thats what they all tell me it has been over one year since ive has a pain pill .im proud of myself .but at the same time i have gained 80lbs from not walking it hurts bone on bone knees at 300lbs shoulders elbows kneck .i ask god daily why its fathers day .and no one wants to be around me because im in horrible pain .what can i do .against monsanto .i know of others like and some worse than me parkinsons .and diverticulitus but this wasnt just let loose on me it afgfects a large lake and 100000s of locals its in the air the ground we even dilibertly dumped bad batches i know where .for years prowl lorsban roundup dual one dual two oh yea we even have one called gangster ,cinch affected us the worse it gave us cramps and horrible nightmares .nightmares of violence and made us breakout with cold sores .it s my own fault for hauling it but when you got kids i would sometimes work over 100 hrs per week during spraying season eating with dirty hands .i think i have testical cancer now .im afraid to go to doctors for fear they will poision me i dont know what to do but i cant go on much longer i just wanna not hurt pray pray pray for me

    • don

      rick simpson – "run from the cure"

  • EDWARD L NUNYAS

    i think monsanto is about to be embarassed as i have worked for three companys co-op elavators and i know where the what we call witches brew messed up batches were sprayed off we are talking 20,000 gallon bad batches when you work 100 hrs plus per week human error occurred all over south dakota iowa minnesota and i have pictures of 16 yr old kids working with cinch with no ppe on ppe meanspersonal protective equipment .its like this the weapons of mass destruction we were looking for are right hrer in river city .i dont want to sound vindictive bet the more i learn about what monsanto knew about us employees exposed to it and they know alot documents are every where thank god for cell cams zip files and guys who talk on radios to much farmers ag chemical sprayers are my biggest asset when you see a hugh 120 ft boom sprayer out after ten pm ,we refer to it as covert ops laughingly ,getting rid of the round up thats got 20 times the amount in it .take it down mear anderson farm and spray it off booms raised only problem is wind takes that ten thousand gallon batch down to the marsh which is part of the lake now you wanna know why the frogs turtles have no sex and all the workers wives left us cause we dont cant have sex it destroyed are testosterone levels god knows what it dose to school kids two blocks away from batch location s in just about every town of thousand or more round up is stored batched up with nitrogen or water mini bio weapons labs all across america wanna tour before i die i can show you soil thats so poillutted monsanto hope your listening .if anyone knows a good doctor i cant type move my neck hurts to much

  • JJJ

    Buy Organic Everyone! The price will come down as more people vote organic. The price is not that bad if you choose carefully and cook at home. Even better, buy local organic. Then you can talk to the producers and find out how they operate. Lack of organic certification does not always mean conventional.

  • Walter Reed

    My uncle is in the hospital right now with esophageal cancer.

    His platoon in Vietnam was sprayed with Agent Orange on several

    occasions, either by accident or when the winds shifted. He's 61, and

    out of the 20 guys in his platoon, only he and one other

    are still alive. The other 18 guys are all dead from various types

    of cancers. What are the odds of that?

    Corporations and governments should pay for misdeeds.

    Instead, my tax dollars baila out the big banks.

    Sometimes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

  • http://www.freedomreigns.us Jim Lovell

    My dad was a chemist – two patents to his name – and he was Union Carbide's patent agent for a quarter century. When I was in college – I think in '71 – he called – one of only two times. He said that dioxin was in Agent Orange – they'd analyzed it. He said that the only way that could be in the mix was if they ran the reactor too hot. He told me that if I got a draft notice, I was going to Canada or Europe – immediately. Then he handed the phone over to my mother who cried her eyes out. She said that if I got a draft notice, she may never see me again when I left, or any children I might have, but it was the only logical choice. And shortly after that, the reactor blew up and killed plant workers. And did anyone at that plant ever see any OSHA inspectors? NO! But they crawled all over Carbide – a good guy in the chemical industry. Finally – FINALLY – - – all this – - – crap is coming out – 40 YEARS LATER – after most of the victims are dead – - – Jim from West Virginia

    • http://www.bareskin-beauty.co.uk juliette

      Jim Lovell – your post made me cry, thank you for sharing.

      I have inherent faith the balance is shifting in favour of those that love and respect the planet and their health. In the UK we really care about GM issues and we are amazed at the corruption and shameless greed emanating from big corporations in the US – its a global issue. We should all stand strong on this issue – they can't defeat the passion and power of the people.

    • Marcial Santiago

      Your father was right. I got drafted in 1968 27th Chemical Detachment, Viet Nam. I presently sick with cancer,diebetics and stomach and skin problems. No compensation from Chemical companies. I should have run off to Canada and still be healthy.
      Marcial from Puerto Rico

  • Baja K

    One thing is….who can trust Monsanto with its role in our food supply, especially regarding Genetically Modified "foods"? Monsanto treats consumers as Guinea pigs, experimented on without Informed Consent.

    Another, who can trust Monsanto, a prime member of everyone's hated cigarette industry, with any claims about concerns for health. Monsanto's Roundup Ready glyphosoate has been sprayed on genetically modified tobacco (!) crops for about 18 years.

    Co-producers of Agent Orange, Dow and DuPont, also make tobacco pesticides…that leave residues on tobacco, without a word of warning to those who think, and are always told, they are just smoking tobacco. They are, more clearly, smoking Pesticide Pegs…unless they go organic or grow their own.

  • Patrick Munoz

    I think it is a disgrace that one company can cause so much pain. I hope they get what they deserve.