San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley Cases Allowed to Proceed
DALLAS (February 7, 2017) – The national law firm of Baron & Budd reports that a U.S. district judge has denied a Monsanto Co. motion to dismiss the PCB contamination lawsuits filed by the California cities of San Jose, Oakland and Berkeley. The lawsuits are filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division. (In Re: Case Nos. 5:15-cv-03178-EJD (San Jose), 5:15-cv-05152-EJD (Oakland), 5:16-cv-00071-EJD (Berkeley))
Baron & Budd and Gomez Trial Attorneys are representing these and other cities that are suing Monsanto, alleging the company’s PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) contaminated lakes, bays, rivers and other bodies of water. The firms also represent the Cities of San Diego, Long Beach, Seattle, Spokane, Portland, the Port of Portland, and the State of Washington. The company manufactured PCBs for more than four decades, and these chemical compounds were found in a multitude of products including paints, electrical equipment, caulks and many others.
PCBs are a “probable human carcinogen,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They have been linked to severe health problems in humans, including pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, melanoma and others. PCBs have also been found to be dangerous to fish and wildlife as well. These compounds escape from their original applications, being washed away by rain and sent into stormwater systems. PCBs are toxic, cannot be contained to their original applications, and do not biodegrade in nature.
The cities are suing Monsanto for costs associated with PCB cleanup and stormwater system retrofit damages. They allege the company was aware of the dangers of PCBs and the likelihood of contamination. Despite those risks, the cities allege, Monsanto not only continued to promote the sale of the compounds but also encouraged third parties to use them in their products without proper warnings or instruction
U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila had previously granted Monsanto’s motion to dismiss with leave to amend. The cities field First Amended Complaints, and Monsanto again sought dismissal. In his new ruling, however, Judge Davila wrote that the cities could continue to pursue damages against Monsanto because public entities are allowed to “capture stormwater and put it to use.”
Judge Davila also cited a previous case that allows public entities to bring nuisance claims against manufacturers when those manufacturers either “create or assist in creating a system that causes hazardous wastes to be disposed of improperly” or “instruct users to dispose of wastes improperly.” He ruled that the cities may pursue damages under the theory of “public nuisance.”
“We are extremely pleased that Judge Davila denied Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the case,” said Scott Summy, who leads the Environmental Litigation Group at Baron & Budd. “We believe Monsanto acted negligently, and as a result should be held responsible for costs associated with PCB cleanup.”
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