$275M verdict for toxic exposures at Washington school

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MONROE, Wash. (AP) — A jury in King County has awarded $275 million to ten students and parents who say they suffered serious neurological injuries from chemical exposure at a school northeast of Seattle.

The lawsuit against Bayer Pharmaceuticals is the fourth to result in a multimillion-dollar verdict, The Seattle Times reported. The company owns chemical giant Monsanto, the manufacturer of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The first three lawsuits resulted in jury verdicts of $268 million distributed to 14 plaintiffs. One lawsuit is ongoing and 16 more await trial.

More than 200 students, parents and teachers from the Sky Valley Education Center, an alternative school in Snohomish County, have sued Monsanto over environmental contamination.

They say Monroe School District knew PCBs were found on the campus, but, despite cleanup efforts, toxins were still being found into 2019.

Exposure to the PCBs led to health effects including neurological problems, skin lesions, cancer, hormonal diseases and other illnesses, plaintiffs said.

PCBs were banned by the EPA in 1979 but still remain in some structures including in lighting ballasts at Sky Valley before they were replaced.

Bayer Pharmaceuticals said in a statement that it disagrees with the verdict and plans to appeal, as it has with prior verdicts.

Bayer also claims failures on the part of the Monroe School District.

In early 2022, the school district agreed to pay $34 million in a settlement with parents and students exposed to PCBs. The district did not accept responsibility for hazardous conditions on campus and said it acted appropriately to remove toxicants and inform parents.