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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.

U.S. War Against ISIS in Syria and Iraq: A Violation of the War Powers Resolution of 1973?

Posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 at 3:42 pm    


While in the midst of an illegal war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the Obama administration also faces a local war: a lawsuit filed by U.S. Army captain and intelligence officer Nathan Smith, who says that, by continuing the conflict despite absence of congressional support within the law’s time frame, President Obama has violated the War Powers Resolution.

According to the Army Capt., the President does not have the Congress’ approval for the war against ISIS either in Iraq or Syria, despite this, he did not end the war after the 60-day window period, thus, making the war illegal. Based on the War Powers Resolution of 1973, also referred to as the “War Powers Act,” if without Congressional approval, then the president only has 90 days to direct troops. Of these 90 days, mobilization of military forces may continue for 60; the remaining 30 days should be for the withdrawal of those forces.

While the case is pending, Capt. Smith remains on active military service; according to an affidavit that he filed, he claimed to having supported military action against ISIS, however, the potential illegality of the conflict bothered him. One of his colleagues even referred to the military campaign as one of the most severe violations of the Constitution this 21st century.

Bruce Ackerman, a Yale law professor who is advising Capt. Smith in his legal efforts, says that determining who is right or who is wrong is not the real issue, but whether Capt. Smith has the right to be given an answer. Ackerman feels that the courts may see the legislators’ votes, which approved the funding of the war, as the latter’s way of approving it and use this to dismiss Capt. Smith’s claims that the war is illegal. In spite of this, he is hopeful that, with the coming elections, those who are aspiring to be the country’s next leader will be asked about their views on the legal use of military force overseas and that this lawsuit will keep future presidents from using the war against ISIS as ground for unilateral warfare beyond the limits of the War Powers Resolution.

The Lingering Effects of Monsanto PCBs are Evident in Latest Lawsuit

Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 at 10:38 am    

Monsanto PCBsMore than three decades have passed since the United States Congress issued a ban against the manufacture and use of polychlorinated biphenyl compounds—commonly called PCBs—under the Toxic Substances Control Act. However, even after 30 years or so, plenty of communities continue to feel the lingering effects of these highly toxic chemicals. The ecological effects have been so troublesome that the city of San Diego, California has recently filed a lawsuit against the biggest manufacturer of PCBs during the time of its widespread use, agrochemical company Monsanto.

According to the San Diego Reader, the City of San Diego and the San Diego Unified Port District are suing Monsanto for its role in polluting its waters and surrounding bay area. The lawsuit, filed March 16, claims that Monsanto PCBs continue to contaminate the San Diego Bay and have caused significant effects on wildlife in the area. As noted in the lodged complaint, “PCB contamination in and around the Bay affects all San Diegans and visitors who enjoy the Bay, who reasonably would be disturbed by the presence of a hazardous, banned substance in the sediment, water, and wildlife.”

Before its ban in the late 1970s, PCBs were widely used as industrial coolants and became a vital ingredient in a variety of commercial products. During this time, the production of PCB substances was monopolized by Monsanto. Between 1929 and the federal 1979 ban, an estimated 1.5 billion tons of PCBs were manufactured by Monsanto. The San Diego lawsuit points to reports and documents dating as early as 1969 that indicate Monsanto had been well aware of the potential health and ecological risks posed by their chemical products. A separate news report by RT noted that one internal Monsanto memo showed that the company was well aware of the dangers of PCBs long before they stopped production, two years before the ban.

All in all, the City of San Diego is looking for Monsanto to cover the expenses of dredging the bay area to remove PCBs and paying any additional costs for the destruction of natural resources. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes PCBs as a probable human carcinogen. Aside from the risk of cancer, the pollutant has also been found to be potentially dangerous to the nervous, endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems of the human body.

Sources about the History of Monsanto PCBs

Other Good Places to Learn about Monsanto PCBs

Same-Sex Marriage Question to be Finally Tackled by the Supreme Court

Posted on Friday, January 23rd, 2015 at 8:22 am    

The U.S. Supreme Court has been historically elusive about taking a stand on the issue of same-sex marriage. It obliquely gave it a nod by refusing to review the ruling of the federal appeals courts to strike down same-sex marriage bans in 7 cases in 2014 but making no comment.

However, when the 6th Circuit upheld the ban in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee in November 2014, it created a split in the federal appeals level. This may have influenced the Supreme Court to finally weigh in on the issue. It agreed to review the federal appeals courts’ decisions on those self-same states in one hearing scheduled for April, consolidating the arguments of all four cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to settle the question once and for all if banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Legal representatives of the four states will be granted 2 ½ hours to argue their case. A ruling is expected sometime in June.

Same-sex marriage is legal and recognized in 36 states plus the District of Columbia, but the remaining states are steadfast in refusing to allow it and do not recognize the legal standing of same-sex couples married in other states. This has sparked a fierce debate about the denial of these states of the protections and rights provided in marriage to same-sex couples, such as those pertaining to property, succession, and custody. Advocates for same-sex marriage have continuously argued that banning same-sex marriage is a violation of the constitutional rights of lesbians and gays.

Same-sex marriage advocacy has gone quite a long way in a short time. It was only in 2013 that legality of same-sex marriage was conceded on the federal level as a result of the landmark case United States v. Windsor. The outcome predicted in mid-2015 will finally resolve the same-sex marriage constitutional issue.

Controversial Liability Law Under Fire From Big Insurance

Posted on Friday, August 1st, 2014 at 3:24 pm    

scaffoldingManhattan’s iconic skyline view would not have been possible without the hard work and bravery of construction workers who perform one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, high above the ground. Section 240 of the New York State Labor Law, also known as the Scaffold Safety Law, protects those who suffer debilitating injuries on the job. The Scaffold Law applies to height-related construction injuries and holds property owners and general contractors accountable when a worker’s accident is caused due to the lack of proper safety protections.

Unfortunately, insurance companies are lobbying hard to eliminate the Scaffold Law and deprive construction workers of a necessary protection. Contrary to the insurance industry’s claims, owners and contractors can avoid all liability under the Scaffold Law simply by providing workers with necessary safety precautions. The Scaffold Law is essential in holding contracting firms accountable and ensuring that money-saving corners are not cut at the expense of human life. Thanks to the Scaffold Law, New York had the nation’s fifth-lowest construction injury rate.

quoteIn a recent case, Hach & Rose obtained a thirteen million dollar jury verdict for a worker who fell from a twenty-five foot ladder while he was painting, suffering severe, life-threatening injuries. Unfortunately, the victim did not have a co-worker available to hold his ladder while he was painting, and a safer way to do his job was not provided to him. If not for the protections of the Scaffold Law, the worker would have been limited to the benefits of workers’ compensation. Michael Rose, who tried this case, said:

“This case is the perfect example of why the scaffolding law is so important. If the law did not exist, our client would have received about $500 per week, that’s it. I don’t see how that could possibly be fair for someone who spent one year in a rehabilitation center after brain surgery, learning how to walk, talk, eat, and read all over again. His brain has been permanently injured and he cannot exist on his own. If he had simply been provided with a mechanism to tie off his ladder or had someone available to hold the latter for him, he would still be living a normal life with his family. Thankfully, the protection provided by the Scaffold law allows injured workers to be compensated for their full damages and live their lives with dignity when proper safety precautions are not taken.”

Fortunately, because of the accountability provided by the Scaffold Law, the victim was compensated for his past and future lost earnings, past and future medical expenses, loss of pension benefits, loss of annuity benefits, loss of medical insurance, and for his pain and suffering. Although money cannot make up for loss of health, it can allow the victim and his family financial security.