Monsanto Beats Town in PCB Caulk Appeal

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 11, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Massachusetts town sued Monsanto after the town renovated one of its schools to be free from PCB, a common additive to building materials, like paint and caulking, that has been linked to negative health effects (in paint and other products).

The town claimed that the company failed to do anything about the caulking that contained PCB, though it clearly took steps to discourage certain uses of PCB containing paint and other products decades ago. After spending millions to renovate and remove all the PCB containing caulking, the town filed suit against the makers of the PCB, rather than the makers of the caulking. The lawsuit was dismissed by the federal district court, and the First Circuit has denied the town's appeal.

End Users and Losers

Interestingly, the court noted that Monsanto did in fact issue safety warnings in regards to the negative health effects of PCBs. However, those warnings were sent to manufacturers and not to the end users. This is because as an additive for building materials, it was being sold to other manufacturers for use in other products. Sadly for the end users in this case, the town, there was no specific warning about the use of PCBs in caulking in 1969 when the building was built.

The appellate court affirmed that the district court applied the right standard and asked the right questions when it focused in on whether Monsanto, in 1969, would have reasonably known that PCB in caulking could be or become harmful to human health. In fact, the district court found there to be a considerable lack of affirmative proof that PCBs in caulk were actually even harmful.

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