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Jury decides against Monsanto in PCB case

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 at 12:47 pm    

PCB Warning

Monsanto has been ordered to pay three plaintiffs $17.5 million in damages and an additional $29 million in punitive damages by a jury in St. Louis after hearing a case alleging negligence in the production and handling of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The three plaintiffs in the case all claim that exposure to PCBs caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma—they are among nearly 100 other plaintiffs making the same claim against the company. Sadly, some plaintiffs have died and had to be represented by their surviving relatives.

As of 1935, Monsanto was the foremost manufacturer of PCBs in the United States and only stopped production in 1977, just before Congress then banned the production of PCBs in 1979. The lawsuit claims that Monsanto was aware of the dangers posed by PCBs for decades, but chose to falsely tell members of the public that they were safe. Prior to 1979, PCBs were commonly used in commercial and consumer products, including paint, industrial equipment, and even food packaging.

After the jury made its 10-2 decision on the case, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Steven Kherkher, told the St. Louis Dispatch, “This is the future. People don’t know that PCBs cause cancer and that PCBs cause cancer and that Monsanto has been suppressing” the evidence.

Kherker later explained to EcoWatch, “The only reason why this victory is rare is because no one has had the money to fight Monsanto,” and that his firm, Williams Kherkher, has pooled resources with other law firms to get the case moving.

As he went on to say, “It’s not going to be rare anymore.” Williams Kherkher now has around 1,000 plaintiffs making claims associated with PCBs.

In response to the increasing number of cases that his firm will be pursuing against the company, Kherkher told EcoWatch, “every judge allows us to acquire more and more information from Monsanto and discover their documents. There is a lot more information out there that has yet to be mined.”

Though the former Monsanto Chemical Co. that originally manufactured PCBs is no longer in existence, Monsanto—which now manufactures herbicides and engineers agricultural seeds—is handling the claims. However, three other companies were among the defendants in this case: Solutia, which was a spin off from the old Monsanto Chemical Co.; Pharmacia, which absorbed a portion of the old Monsanto; and Pfizer, which had merged with Pharmacia back in 2003.

Following the verdict made against Monsanto, one of the jurors, Nathan Nevius, told the St. Louis Dispatch, “All of us could pretty much agree that Monsanto was negligent.”

Juror Ashley Enochs told the Dispatch, “I think it goes to show that large companies can put stuff out there that’s harmful and they can do it for along time but that justice is going to be served whether it’s a year after the products are put out, or in this case, 80 years.”

In response to the jury’s decision on the matter, Monsanto issued a statement that said, “We have deep sympathy for the plaintiffs but we are disappointed by the jury’s decision and plan to immediately appeal today’s ruling. Previous juries in four straight similar trials rejected similar claims by attorneys that those plaintiffs contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a result of eating food containing PCBs. The evidence simply does not support today’s verdict, including the fact that scientists say more than 90 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases have no known cause.”

As of now, the $46.5 million decision against Monsanto marks a departure from prior rejections of claims made against the company for its production and handling of PCBs.

Volkswagen emission scandal: What’s up for the consumers?

Posted on Friday, November 20th, 2015 at 2:36 pm    


This year could be the roughest for Volkswagen. Last August, it announced it is recalling 420,000 of its units after learning about a faulty steering wheel assembly that may cause the front airbags not deploy during a crash. This airbag-related recall seems to be completely unrelated to Takata’s airbag recall, which involves several other car makers.

But last September, the German auto giant has entered into what has dubbed to be the car maker’s most disastrous scandal yet. The U.S. Environment and Protection Agency said Volkswagen intentionally installed software designed to circumvent clean air regulations by detecting if the car is being tested for emission. The scandal sent waves of dismay and distrust that it lost nearly $2 billion in this year’s third quarter.

Volkswagen is also preparing to face consumers’ ire over the emission scandal. In fact, the company announced that it will provide two cash cards to those affected by the issue – the first one, worth $500, can be used anywhere, while the second one, worth between $500 and $750, can be spent at any Volkswagen dealership.

This move hopes to pacify the anger of many car buyers who believe that they have purchased a diesel car that’s both efficient and eco-friendly. To date, more and more people are suing the company, asking for compensation because of a decreased resale value.

Defects in car keyless ignition systems prompt class action suit

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2015 at 3:52 pm    

With the advancements in automotive technology that is available today, drivers can now start their cars with the use of keyless ignition systems. Instead of using traditional keys, a driver can easily start their vehicle with a single press of a button. This mechanism works as long as the driver has the special electronic key fob on their person, since the ignition system is ideally designed to start only when it detects the fob within a given radius. Unfortunately, this state-of-the art design isn’t always foolproof. As a matter of fact, several car makers are currently facing a class action lawsuit because of this very issue.

Keyless Ignition

As reported by CNN Money, a class action lawsuit has been filed against the country’s top automakers for dangerous defects in keyless ignition systems. The lawsuit alleges that the defective keyless ignition systems allow cars to continue running even after the key fob is no longer within the specified vicinity required by the system. This led to cars continuing to run even while parked, causing carbon monoxide to build-up inside enclosed garages and seep inside people’s homes.

The lawsuit cites 13 fatalities caused by such incidents, including one that involves a Toyota Prius hybrid. Aside from Toyota, the other car makers named in the suit include General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Honda.

The Downside to Propylene

Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 at 9:08 am    

Propylene, also known as propene or methylethylene, is an important organic compound used in many industries and products, including medical supplies, construction materials, and plastic manufacturing. It is considered a relatively safe environmental product because it can be re-used and recycled many times.  One of its polymers, polypropylene, in particular is widely used in laboratory equipment, textiles, packaging and labeling, automotive parts, and reusable containers. It is typically used in such products as it is a durable polymer that can withstand degradation from a large number of chemical acids, bases and solvents.

Its high rate of use prompted the creation of propylene plants that would ensure the steady supply of the compound at predictable prices. Prior to the existence of propylene plants, the compound was largely a by-product of petroleum refining and ethylene processing.  Despite its benefits, however, there are dangers inherent to working with propylene.

Because it is a volatile and flammable compound, it can be dangerous if not handled properly. Propylene is a gas at room temperature. This was the problem when an accidental tear in one of the propylene pipes at the Formosa Plastics plant in Port Comfort, Texas exposed the compound to the air. As the plant does not produce propylene, but rather uses it, it is kept in storage tanks. Normally stored as a liquid, the escaping substance turned into gas at it hit room temperatures, forming a deadly layer of flammable vapor. The resulting propylene explosion was triggered by a stray spark and burned for 5 days. Because of a flaw in the plant safety system, the pipeline could not be shut off. As a result of the explosion, some workers were badly burned.

Most of the time, such accidents can be avoided if due care and caution is used when handling propylene. According to Williams Kherker in Houston, TX, there is only one propylene plant in the US, also in Texas, but more plants are planned to be in production by 2015. These have a higher potential for explosion accidents because these plants have a capacity of 455,000 metric tons of propylene at the minimum. In order to avoid such explosions and serious accidents, plant managers and owners need to take the proper precautions and follow all necessary regulations.

Johnson & Johnson Must Pay $8.3 Million after Jury Verdict

Posted on Friday, March 8th, 2013 at 4:28 pm    

Hip ImplantJohnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $8.3 million to a 65 year old man who claimed that the DePuy ASR hip implant he received was defective. This case was the first of over 10,000 lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson to be brought to court.

In the jury ruling, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay over $300,000 to cover the plaintiff’s medical expenses, and another $8 million for pain and suffering resulting from the defective hip implant. Johnson & Johnson issued a recall of 93,000 implants back in 2010 after announcing that 12% of the devices failed after just five years.

Experts agree that the cost of resolving the over 10,000 suits against the company could cost Johnson & Johnson billions of dollars.

Annie’s Issues Voluntary Recall of Frozen Pizza

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013 at 5:33 pm    

PizzaAccording to a story in the Oakland Tribune, Annie’s Homegrown, a natural and organic foods company based out of Berkeley, CA, issued a voluntary recall of their frozen Rising Crust Pizza after a faulty screen at their production plant resulted in metal shards finding their way into flour and pizza dough.

Although there are no reports of injuries or consultations with personal injury lawyers because of the incident, Annie’s decided to recall frozen Rising Crust Pizzas with a “best buy” date between January 9th and September 14th of this year. Additionally, there have been no reports of consumers finding any metal in store-bought pizzas.