City defeats Monsanto's motion to dismiss PCB lawsuit

Marlene Feist, City of Spokane Public Works & Utilities, (509) 625-6505

Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 4:40 p.m.

On Oct. 26, the City of Spokane defeated Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the City’s lawsuit alleging PCB contamination of the City’s stormwater system. Judge Salvador Mendoza in the Eastern District of Washington ruled the City of Spokane properly alleged public nuisance, negligence, equitable indemnity, and products liability under the Washington Products Liability Act. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to reimburse the City for costs to remove and reduce PCBs from the City’s stormwater system. The case is City of Spokane v. Monsanto Company, et al., Case No. 2:15-cv-00201-SMJ, filed July 31, 2015.

Judge Mendoza’s writes, “The public harm at issue here comes from PCBs reaching the River, but the nuisance itself is Monsanto’s production, marketing, and distribution of the PCBs.”

Scott Simmons, Public Works & Utilities Director, said, “This ruling is a critical first win for the City of Spokane and its residents. We believe Monsanto should have a responsibility for cleaning up this mess.”

“It’s time Monsanto steps up and does the right thing. Enough is enough. Corporate responsibility used to mean something in this country, and Monsanto is trying to push the cost of its pollution back onto city residents,” said Scott Summy of Baron & Budd, P.C.

John Fiske, also of Baron & Budd, said, “This ruling will allow the case to move toward trial in January 2018, when it will be decided who should pay for polluting the public stormwater system.”

On July 31, 2015, the City of Spokane sued Monsanto Company alleging its PCBs have contaminated the City’s stormwater system, causing a public nuisance in the Spokane River. Due to Monsanto’s PCB contamination, the City of Spokane will spend millions of dollars to retrofit the stormwater system to reduce, remove, and manage the PCB contamination.

Monsanto was the sole U.S. manufacturer of PCBs from the 1930s to the 1970s when Congress banned the manufacture of PCB-containing products. PCBs are carcinogenic and can contaminate food supplies, including consumable fish in the Spokane River. Monsanto’s PCBs are toxic, cannot be contained to their original application, and last decades in the environment.

The City is represented by Baron & Budd, P.C., a national law firm, and by Gomez Trial Attorneys, of San Diego, Calif. The two firms also represent seven other cities, including Seattle, Portland, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, Long Beach, and San Diego.