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Jury awards millions to 8 people harmed by chemicals at Monroe school

A 12-person jury agreed that Bayer must pay more than $60 million over harm done by chemicals produced by Monsanto.

MONROE, Wash. — A jury in King County Superior Court awarded millions in damages to people harmed by chemical poisoning at Sky Valley Education Center in the Monroe School District.

It is the latest verdict in a long list of lawsuits concerning a dangerous chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) once produced by Monsanto.

The 12-person jury agreed that Bayer, the German company that absorbed Monsanto, didn’t do enough to warn the public about a once common chemical and ordered them to pay more than $60 million in damages to eight people from King and Snohomish counties.

PCBs, banned by the EPA more than 40 years ago, were once common in construction of older buildings including schools.

The lawsuit brought forth by those eight people connected to Sky Valley Education Center alleges that exposure to this chemical led to a myriad of health problems, including cancer. Those people include children, their parents and spouses, and Monroe School District staff.

This is one of many nationwide lawsuits brought forth against the manufacturer. In 2016, Washington state became the first to sue the company. In 2018, nearly 40 families sued over the highly toxic chemicals found in classrooms at Sky Valley Education Center. 

“For too long the company escaped the cost the enormous cost of the cleanup of this material – the counties the cities the private entities to foot the bill,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee when the state’s lawsuit was first introduced.

In 2020, the state settled for $95 million – money they say will go to upgrading old buildings and to the victims impacted by the dangerous chemicals.

In the moments after the verdict, Bayer released a statement saying the PCB levels were very low in the school in question and puts the blame on the school district by alleging it ignored warnings to remove outdated equipment containing PCBs.  

"We continue to believe that the undisputed evidence in this case does not support the conclusions that plaintiffs were exposed to unsafe levels of PCBs at the Sky Valley Education."