Attorney Questions West Virginia Monsanto Settlement

An attorney is challenging a $93 million settlement between Monsanto Co. and thousands of West Virginians.

Thomas Urban II represents some class members who say the settlement isn’t fair and reasonable, the Charleston Gazette reported Saturday. They claim the deal was reached as a result of “collusion” between Monsanto and attorneys representing some of the current and former Nitro residents in the class action.

A judge in February approved the proposed settlement with residents who said Monsanto polluted their community by burning waste from Agent Orange production.

Circuit Judge Derek Swope has directed attorneys for Monsanto and class members to provide a wide range of documents explaining how the settlement was reached. The information is due by May 4.

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs and a Monsanto attorney objected to Urban’s request for the documents.

Swope wrote, “The Court does not mean to suggest that by granting this discovery it has prejudged the fairness, adequacy and reasonableness of the proposed settlement.” He added that compromise in reaching the settlement does not mean it is “unfair, inadequate or unreasonable.”

The Monsanto plant in Nitro produced herbicides, rubber products and other chemicals. The plant’s production of the defoliant Agent Orange created dioxin as a toxic chemical byproduct.

Dioxin has been linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, infertility and suppressed immune functions. It builds up in tissue over time, so even small exposures can accumulate to dangerous levels.

The St. Louis chemical giant has agreed to pay up to $84 million for medical monitoring and $9 million to clean up 4,500 homes. Monsanto also agreed to pay legal fees.

The litigation began with a class-action case by plant workers in the 1980s.

A June 18 hearing has been set to give those involved a chance to object to the deal before it becomes final.