On Monday, March 5, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the state of Ohio and its citizens against the agricultural biotechnology and agrochemical corporation Monsanto, alleging it concealed information about dangerous toxic chemicals it sold for decades. The suit also calls for Monsanto to remove the dangerous chemicals from contaminated Ohio land and natural resources.
The lawsuit, which mirrors other suits filed by states like Washington and Oregon, focuses on Monsanto’s production and sale of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which was used widely in products ranging from sealants, lubricants, and paint to electrical equipment and carbonless copy paper, as well as by various manufacturing operations in Ohio.
As experts have definitively revealed, PCBs have been linked to a number of negative health effects, including liver damage and cancer, and were banned by the EPA in 1979, two years after Monsanto stopped making the chemical. PCBs are known to also build up in natural resources and contaminate the food chain. Studies have shown PCB contamination in dozens of rivers, lakes, and bodies of water across Ohio, as well as in wildlife, soil, plants, and air.
As alleged in the suit, Monsanto first learned of PCB’s toxic effects as early as the 1930s, but continued to make and sell them for decades while concealing their dangers to humans and the environment. It cites an internal company memo dated in 1937 that acknowledged “systemic toxic effects” caused by prolonged exposure, as well as a campaign spanning decades to mislead, deceive, and misinform the public and government regulators.
Corporate Misconduct Exposed Through the Civil Justice System
Monsanto is one of the most powerful corporations in the world, and its products have been used widely for manufacturing and agricultural purposes for years. While its products are widely used, Monsanto has faced heavy criticism and controversy for producing dangerous chemicals like Agent Orange, DDT insecticide, and PCBs, threatening biodiversity through seed patenting and GMOs, and for applying techniques developed by aggressive biotech drug companies to its business model.
Monsanto’s history of controversy and alarming pattern of deceit has remained consistent throughout the years. Just this year, the American Association for Justice included Monsanto in its report on the Worst Corporate Conduct of 2017. That report focused on the company ghostwriting scientific reports that mislead government regulators from the EPA into concluding that glyphosate, a chemical used in the weed killer product Roundup, was not carcinogenic. However, it was soon discovered through company e-mails that employees collaborated on ghostwriting articles as part of a PR campaign against the numerous lawsuits they faced from farmers and others who alleged Monsanto failed to warn them that Roundup could cause lymphoma. The World Health Organization determined glyphosate was a probable cancer-causing chemical in 2015.
Concealment and deception on this scale are nothing if not frightening, and its impact on the environment, communities, and humans is tremendous. As a law firm of proven Civil Trial Attorneys who fight on behalf of clients wronged by negligent and wrongful acts, including those committed by powerful corporations, we know of the unspeakable terrors corporations can create when they apply their endless resources to matters of deception and wrongdoing, and how their prioritization of profits over people not only leads to corporate shortcuts, but also an unfathomable and unacceptable disregard for human life.
If there is any consolation to the devastation this type of activity can produce, it is that there exist ways to stop it. Although it is surely not an easy endeavor, exposing corporate misconduct is one of the most important features of our civil justice system; courts where victims, communities, and states can stand up to make their voices heard, and where they have a more level playing field to take on even the most powerful corporate entities. Lawsuits such as the one filed by Ohio’s Attorney General against Monsanto, as well as the personal injury, product liability, and class action lawsuits filed by our own team at Spangenberg Shibley & Liber have the power to raise awareness and produce change – not just for individuals who suffer injustice and losses, but also on a massive scale to benefit large groups of people, if not all Americans.
Our award-winning Ohio trial lawyers have been protecting the rights of clients throughout the state and the country since 1946, and we are passionate about discussing issues so very critical to our communities, clients, and civil justice system. We apply this passion in every case we handle, no matter how big or small, and always fight to protect our clients’ rights and pursue the justice and outcomes they deserve.
If you have a potential civil case to discuss, learn more about our practice areas and services, by calling (216) 600-0114 for a free consultation. Spangenberg Shibley & Liber is ready to fight for you.