Delaware Court Dismisses AG Lawsuit Against Monsanto for PCB Pollution

  • Delaware Superior Court Judge Mary M. Johnston granted a motion to dismiss in favor of Defendants Monsanto Company, Solutia, Inc. and Pharmacia LLC in a lawsuit filed by Delaware AG Kathleen Jennings regarding claims stemming from the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) allegedly contaminating Delaware’s waterways and that were manufactured by Monsanto. In recent years, PCBs have been at the center of multimillion-dollar settlements reached between Monsanto and multiple states whose waterways had allegedly been contaminated.
  • Specifically, the state had asserted claims for public nuisance, trespass, and unjust enrichment based on PCBs entering the Delaware environment due to dumping, leaking, spilling, and erroneous disposal by third parties. The lawsuit alleged that Monsanto was aware for decades that PCBs were toxic to humans and other animals and that they were polluting the environment, yet continued to manufacture and sell them for use by third-party manufacturers in an array of industrial and commercial applications.
  • The court ruled that (1) the Delaware courts do not recognize product-based nuisance claims; (2) the state has no standing to bring trespass claims regarding PCB contamination because there is no basis to support the notion that it has exclusive possession of water, and the state did not allege that Monsanto had control of the PCBs at the time of the alleged trespass; and (3) in the absence of those two claims, a third and final claim for unjust enrichment must fail as well because the court lacks jurisdiction, and also that the allegations of relief from future obligations, in this case, the cost of environmental remediation, does not amount to a claim of unjust enrichment.