Cities and Monsanto Stipulate to Stay Environmental Case Pending Settlement Negotiations

On Friday, named class plaintiff the City of Long Beach and defendants Monsanto Company, Solutia Inc., and Pharmacia Corporation jointly moved for a stay of proceedings in a case accusing the defendants of public nuisance for the harm wrought by the sale and manufacture of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) decades ago. The unopposed motion asks the Central District of California to pause all litigation pending resolution of the parties’ proposed settlement agreement.

If agreed to, and if it receives judicial approval, the settlement will resolve more than two dozen municipalities’ grievances against the chemical manufacturer. The complaint and subsequent filings detail the allegedly grave environmental and human health consequences Monsanto was responsible for through the sale of its PCB-laden product, Aroclor, prior to the enactment of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which banned the manufacture and most uses of PCBs in 1979. The present allegations concern Monsanto’s manufacture of PCBs in various industrial, commercial, household, and consumer goods.

According to the complaint, Monsanto knew for decades that PCBs were toxic and that they were causing widespread contamination of natural resources, and endangering entire ecosystems and humans. The cities’ complaint asks for compensatory and punitive damages for the PCBs’ deleterious effects on the environment and waterways.

The 2016 case may finally be drawing to a close, though some, like the non-party City of Seattle, have contemplated whether to release its claims against Monsanto through the instant lawsuit. Because the city is waging its own battle against the company, settling, according to a Seattle filing, would “eliminate in one blow the hundreds of millions of dollars it seeks from Monsanto in its own hard-fought litigation.”

Now, the named class plaintiffs and the defendants have reached a settlement, which was submitted for preliminary approval in late July, and resubmitted after the court requested more information on August 7. In the present motion, the parties contend that the stay will “further the interests of judicial economy, and there is no hardship, damage or prejudice that could befall any non-moving party (as there is no non-moving party).”

The plaintiffs are represented by Baron & Budd, P.C., and the defendants by Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.