County Helps Lead Public Entity Class Action Lawsuit Against Monsanto

County Counsel represented the County and the Flood Control District in a lawsuit alleging Monsanto entities contaminated County water bodies and the stormwater system with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were allegedly used in numerous industrial and commercial applications, including  adhesives, caulks and tapes, floor finishes, thermal insulation materials, and electrical equipment, such as transformers and capacitors, and more. The complaint alleged that defendant Monsanto, as the sole manufacturer of PCBs, knew early on that PCBs posed toxic and harmful effects, but continued to actively promote the use of PCBs in retail products for industrial uses. Although banned in 1979, PCBs allegedly do not biodegrade in the environment.  When products containing PCBs, such as asphalt, degrade over time, PCBs allegedly migrate into soil and waterways.  PCBs are a carcinogen and have adverse health effects on humans, fish, and wildlife. The County alleged that PCBs contaminated water bodies throughout the County (and in every Supervisorial District).  County Counsel worked with the Departments of Public Works, Parks, and Beaches and Harbors to develop the lawsuit.  The case turned into a nationwide class action of over 1700 public entities through representative class members.  The County was one of the thirteen named class representatives. The Federal Court approved the $537.5 million class settlement on November 19, 2022. The County will receive approximately $8 million from the settlement to be used for stormwater pollution prevention projects.

*Although the defendants settled this lawsuit, they did not admit liability; nor did they admit the allegations of the County’s complaint.