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Baltimore County, City lead proposed national class action settlement with Monsanto

BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD—Last week, the City of Baltimore and Baltimore County, along with eleven other governmental entities across the country, announced a proposed nationwide class action settlement with Monsanto Company, Pharmacia, LLC, and Solutia, Inc., for $550 million, resolving PCB water contamination claims for a proposed class of 2,528 governmental entities nationwide.

“This national resolution will empower nearly 2,000 cities, towns, counties, and independent port districts to better monitor, mitigate, and remediate these man-made carcinogens that impair the water quality in stormwater, sewer systems, sediments, and water bodies,” Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski, Jr. said in a joint statement. “Our region is home to hundreds of miles of waterfront, including rivers, creeks, and critical estuaries like the Baltimore Harbor, which are a precious component of our culture. We’re proud to lead efforts to protect these natural resources and to protect waters throughout the state and nation.”

Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, impair the water quality of Back River, Bear Creek, Curtis Creek and the Baltimore Harbor, which are important estuaries, as well as tidal portions of Bird River and Gunpowder River, and the Lake Roland impoundment. PCBs are man-made carcinogens that persist in the environment and bioaccumulate, resulting in fish consumption advisories in these water bodies.
Cases Were Litigated for Over Five Years

Legal motions to approve the proposed settlement class have been filed in federal court in the Central District of California, in a case before Judge Fernando M. Olguin. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed by governmental entities since March 2015, seeking to recover the costs associated with cleaning up stormwater and environmental contamination caused by PCBs, which Monsanto manufactured between the 1930s and 1977. The City of Baltimore and Baltimore County were the first East Coast governments to sue.

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The named plaintiffs leading the nationwide resolution include the City of Baltimore, Baltimore County, City of Spokane, City of Tacoma, City of Portland, Port of Portland, City of Berkeley, City of Oakland, City of San Jose, County of Los Angeles, City of Long Beach, City of San Diego, and City of Chula Vista, California. The cases were collectively litigated for over five years and were mediated and resolved through JAMS Mediator Judge (Ret.) Jay Gandhi.

The proposed class action must be approved by Judge Olguin prior to providing payments to the governmental entity class members. The proposed class action will provide all class members with a monetary benefit and will additionally provide funds for those governmental entities that have incurred or will incur significant expenses to protect and remediate America’s waterways.

The City of Baltimore is represented by Acting City Solicitor Dana P. Moore and Director of Affirmative Litigation Suzanne Sangree. Baltimore County is represented by County Attorney James R. Benjamin, Jr. and Deputy County Attorney Gregory E. Gaskins. The City of Baltimore and Baltimore County are also represented by outside counsel Martin Wolf, Richard Gordon and Ben Carney of Gordon, Wolf & Carney, as well as Kyle McGee of Grant & Eisenhofer, and John Fiske of Baron & Budd, P.C., one of the proposed Lead Class Counsel.

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