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Monsanto Agrees To $1.2 Million Chemical Poisoning Settlement

June 9, 1988

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ A 7-year-old chemical poisoning lawsuit ended with Monsanto Co. agreeing to pay $1.2 million to six of the 173 former workers who sued, but one who will share the award said the money doesn’t make up for his cancer.

As part of the agreement announced Wednesday, Monsanto will pay $200,000 each to the six retired employees who said their exposure to a rubber additive at the company’s Nitro plant gave them bladder cancer.

As part of the settlement, 127 dioxin-related claims and 34 other chemical poisoning claims will be dropped.

In addition, the St. Louis-based corporation agreed to drop its $300,000 court-costs claim against six other retired workers who unsucessfully claimed the company recklessly exposed them to highly toxic dioxin at the plant. Monsanto had attached liens to their homes to guarantee payment.

″I’m pleased with it,″ said retired worker John Hein of the $200,000 he will receive.

But the Nitro resident said the money ″doesn’t make up″ for his illness, which sends him to a hospital twice a year for treatments. He also said he was unhappy that the other plaintiffs were left out of the settlement.

″There’s a lot of them that the statute of limitations ran out on. I don’t like that,″ Hein said.

Hein was one of the 173 former Monsanto workers who filed suit in 1981.

He was awarded $200,000 in 1985 after proving in an 11-month trial that exposure to PAB, a rubber additive, caused his cancer and that Monsanto knew the risk. However, it wasn’t until Wednesday’s settlement that Monsanto agreed to pay the award.

But he and six other retirees in the marathon trial lost their dioxin poisoning claims, and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their appeal.

It was after that trial that Monsanto sought to recover $304,000, a fraction of its court costs, from the retirees. The workers faced losing their homes if the chemical company prevailed.

The settlement was reached a week before the scheduled U.S. District Court trial of Hein and the five other bladder cancer victims who will split the money.

Attorney Stuart Calwell, who filed the original lawsuit against Monsanto, said the six PAB-related claims were ″really all that’s left of the case.″

″I am very pleased for my clients,″ he said. ″I think for them it’s a very good settlement.″

Added Monsanto lawyer Charles Love III: ″We’re relieved, of course, that it’s over. We do not believe we injured these people intentionally. However, rather than go through this again, we decided to settle the matter.″

Monsanto manufactured PAB at its Queeney plant in St. Louis and shipped it to Nitro for manufacture into rubber chemicals. Calwell said other Nitro workers exposed to PAB ″have a precancerous condition″ but were not part of the lawsuit.

Until 1983, West Virginia law allowed employees to sue their employers for job-related injuries if workers could improve willful and reckless disregard for their safety.

Calwell said the case attempted to ″test the political alignment of the courts in this country″ to determine how much risk employers can expose workers to without losing protection from civil suits.

The federal jury hearing the dioxin claims found that the chemical, a byproduct in Agent Orange production, was dangerous to Monsanto employees’ health. Dioxin has been linked to cancer. The workers said they were exposed when the plant made the herbicide in the 1950s and ’60s.

The jury ruled that the dioxin claimants failed to prove Monsanto knowingly risked their safety. Monsanto then sought the court costs.

One of the dioxin plaintiffs, Lonnie Hurley, died in 1987 from liver cancer that spread into his lungs, Calwell said. During the trial, Calwell had tried to prove that Hurley’s cancer was attributable to his exposure to dioxin, while Monsanto lawyers blamed it on Hurley’s lifestyle, including his cigarette smoking.

″We had an autopsy done on Lonnie Hurley and sent out tissue samples and those samples had dioxin in them,″ Calwell said.

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