Judge dismisses Delaware AG’s suit over PCB contamination

Jul 11, 2022, 3:19 AM | Updated: Jul 12, 2022, 1:25 pm

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware Superior Court judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state’s Democratic attorney general against agricultural giant Monsanto Co. over environmental damage from now-banned toxic chemicals known as PCBs.

In recent years, PCBs have been at the center of multimillion-dollar settlements reached between Monsanto and multiple states whose waterways had been contaminated, but Delaware Judge Mary Johnston rejected public nuisance, trespass and unjust enrichment claims asserted by Attorney General Kathy Jennings.

Citing her own 2019 ruling in a lawsuit filed by Jennings against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, and an earlier lawsuit by the city of Wilmington against gun manufacturers, Judge Mary Johnston noted that Delaware courts do not recognize product-based public nuisance claims.

Johnston also said the state has no standing to bring trespass claims regarding PCB contamination of lands and waterways. The judge noted that while the state may have regulatory control of land and water, there is no basis to support the notion that it has exclusive possession of water. She also pointed out that the state had not alleged that Monsanto had control of the PCBs at the time of the alleged trespass.

The state also argued that its use of taxpayer money to address PCB contamination reduced the environmental costs that Monsanto would have incurred or will incur. But Johnston ruled that the unjust enrichment claim is outside the court’s jurisdiction and also fails as a matter of law.

Monsanto, an agricultural chemical and biotechnology company, was acquired by German chemical and pharmaceutical conglomerate Bayer AG in 2018. The company began manufacturing PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the 1930s and continued to do until the 1970s.

The compounds, with their chemical stability, high boiling point and electrical insulating properties, were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications, ranging from electrical and hydraulic equipment to plastics, rubber products and pigments.

They are insoluble in water and accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals, working their way up the food chain and causing a variety of adverse health effects. The EPA has said they are probable human carcinogens.

The lawsuit alleged that Monsanto was aware for decades that PCBs were toxic to humans and other animals, and that they were polluting the environment.

Congress banned the manufacture of PCBs in 1979, but PCB contamination persists in the Delaware River, Delaware Bay and several inland waterways in Delaware.

Officials have identified Amtrak rail facilities in northern Delaware as the state’s largest chronic source of PCB contamination in the Delaware River.

In February, Monsanto agreed to pay $25 million over PCB contamination in the state of New Hampshire. That came two years after a $95 million settlement between the company and the state of Washington. Also, Monsanto in 2020 announced a $650 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by several California cities along with communities in Washington, Maryland and Oregon. The lawsuit resulted in a nationwide class-action settlement involving more than 2,500 local government entities.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI gestures while speaking at Un...

Associated Press

ChatGPT maker downplays fears they could leave Europe over AI rules

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Friday downplayed worries that the ChatGPT maker could exit the European Union

16 hours ago

File - Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, left, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman arrive to the White House for a ...

Associated Press

Regulators take aim at AI to protect consumers and workers

As concerns grow over increasingly powerful artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, the nation’s financial watchdog says it’s working to ensure that companies follow the law when they’re using AI.

3 days ago

FILE - A security surveillance camera is seen near the Microsoft office building in Beijing, July 2...

Associated Press

Microsoft: State-sponsored Chinese hackers could be laying groundwork for disruption

State-backed Chinese hackers have been targeting U.S. critical infrastructure and could be laying the technical groundwork for the potential disruption of critical communications between the U.S. and Asia during future crises, Microsoft said Wednesday.

4 days ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House, May 17, 2023, in Washington....

Associated Press

White House unveils new efforts to guide federal research of AI

The White House on Tuesday announced new efforts to guide federally backed research on artificial intelligence

5 days ago

FILE - The Capitol stands in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED...

Associated Press

What it would mean for the economy if the US defaults on its debt

If the debt crisis roiling Washington were eventually to send the United States crashing into recession, America’s economy would hardly sink alone.

6 days ago

FILE - Bryan Kohberger, left, looks toward his attorney, public defender Anne Taylor, right, during...

Associated Press

Judge enters not guilty pleas for suspect in stabbing deaths of 4 University of Idaho students

A judge entered not guilty pleas Monday for a man charged in the stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students, setting the stage for a trial in which he could potentially face the death penalty.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Judge dismisses Delaware AG’s suit over PCB contamination