Monsanto tentatively agreed to a $93 million settlement with some residents of Nitro, West Virginia. Nitro is a small town that got its name from manufacturing explosives during WWI. It was also the site of a Monsanto chemical plant that manufactured 2,4,5-T herbicide that was half of the Agent Orange recipe. Herbicide 2,4,5-T was contaminated with the caustic by-product dioxin. This settlement may open the floodgates to successfully suing Monsanto for its poison.
Herbicide 2,4,5-T was phased out in the late 1970′s. Dioxin is the most dangerous chemical known and has a 100 year half-life when leached into soil or embedded in water systems. The Veteran’s Administration recognizes and pays out on Agent Orange injury claims that include cancer, birth defects in children of exposed victims, leukemia, liver disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes and chloracne.
Despite an explosion in the Nitro plant in 1949, not a single penny has been paid to residents of Nitro for dioxin injuries, per an attorney that worked on a previous dioxin case. After 7 years of litigation, and on the heels of the EPA releasing part of its dioxin assessment report, Monsanto has made a tentative agreement to settle a class action suit with some Nitro residents for a total of $93 million. Here are the proposed settlement figures:
Medical Testing: $21 Million
Additional Screening: $63 Million
Cleanup of 4500 homes: $9 Million
Bloomberg reports that this settlement will reduce Monsanto’s 2012 net income by 5 cents per share, but Monsanto may face additional lawsuits and fines. There are potentially 80,000 property damage claims alone that could cost Monsanto $3.9 billion in cleanup costs. Dioxin has contaminated soil and has been found in dust in residents’ homes at very high levels.
Nitro Residents vs. Monsanto
Several months ago, the judge in the Nitro case issued a gag order in this case, which was unusual, so details are a bit sketchy. It is unclear whether the following evidence was introduced:
1. Monsanto is alleged to have burned dioxin waste in open pits, spewing dioxin and its ash into the air and polluting land.
2. The EPA recommended that Monsanto be criminally investigated for fraud in covering-up dioxin contamination in its products, including 2,4,5-T herbicide. Monsanto failed to report contamination, substituted false information to show no contamination or sent in “doctored” samples of their products devoid of dioxin to government regulators.
3. The EPA recommended that Monsanto be criminally investigated for fraud in falsifying health studies. These flawed studies that concluded dioxin did not cause cancer and other negative health effects (except chloracne) were used to deny benefits to Viet Nam veterans.
4. Solutia, a Monsanto spin-off company that once owned its Nitro plant, was found by the EPA to have many deteriorating drums of dioxin buried near the Kanawha River. The Nitro plant produced dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T from 1949 to 1971.
Agent Orange Government Contractor Immunity
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