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NEWS OF THE WEEK
ENVIRONMENT
March 4, 2002
Volume 80, Number 9
CENEAR 80 9 p. 12
ISSN 0009-2347
[Previous Story] [Next Story]

ALABAMA JURY FINDS MONSANTO LIABLE
Now Solutia must pay for decades of PCB contamination in Anniston

MARC REISCH

After five hours of deliberation, an Alabama jury concluded that a Monsanto plant--which produced polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Anniston between 1929 and 1971--had polluted nearby properties with the suspected endocrine disrupter and carcinogen.

That decision puts Monsanto spin-off Solutia on the hook for any damages the jury ultimately decides to award. But the jury decision is just the tip of the iceberg.

The decision affects only 17 of 700 property damage claims the jury must consider. All the others will be considered in turn unless there is a settlement. And the jury hasn't even started on the 700 personal injury claims that plaintiffs have pending.

"We are disappointed but not totally surprised," said John C. Hunter, Solutia's chairman, president, and CEO, in a conference call with investors. "We find ourselves in the first step of what could be a long process which could include an appeal as well."

But a long process is exactly what Alabama Circuit Court Judge R. Joel Laird Jr. is trying to avoid. .

Laird has encouraged settlement discussions all along. He suspended trial proceedings last week to allow lawyers to negotiate a settlement. And he ordered top executives from Solutia, Monsanto, and Pharmacia--which has an 85% stake in Monsanto--to participate in settlement talks this past weekend. The trial, which got under way on Jan. 8 (C&EN, Jan. 14, page 4), could well go on for the rest of the year

Monsanto and Pharmacia are also involved in the court proceedings because, if Solutia is unable to pay, they will be responsible for any damages.

There's more: The three firms have another trial looming in 2003 involving PCB claims from an additional 15,000 Anniston plaintiffs.


CLEANER Solutia still manufactures synthetic heat- transfer fluids at its Anniston facility, but they haven't contained PCBs since 1971.

8002NOTWplant

TRENT PENNY/ANNISTON STAR


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