Solutia Provides Update on Abernathy Case

April 1, 2003
Solutia is battling a damage settlement awarded in the initial phase of the Abernathy v. Monsanto trial being held in Alabama. The case stems from PCB pollution caused by Monsanto (now Solutia) in Anniston, Ala.

The first award was for $199,925: $99,925 to clean up the three properties owned by the plaintiff and $100,000 for mental anguish.

As a result of the damage award and fear that more will follow, the company's stock has taken a dip, causing John Hunter, Solutia's chairman and CEO, and Jeffry Quinn, Solutia's general counsel, to take proactive steps to counteract the bad publicity generated by the case. They held a brief teleconference on April 1 to review the damage award granted to plaintiffs in the Abernathy vs. Monsanto case.

According to Hunter and Quinn:

  • Awarding cleanup costs to plaintiffs is inappropriate since the company already agreed to clean up properties in the community. Solutia anticipates a comprehensive Environmental Protection Agency Consent Decree, providing for an expedited cleanup of residential properties in the Anniston community, will be approved.
  • Awarding cleanup costs in excess of the fair market value of the properties in question is inappropriate.
  • Awarding damages for the alleged diminution of value of the property in question under a theory of stigma from PCB contamination is inappropriate.
  • A damage award of mental anguish is inappropriate because the facts of the case do not support a cause of action for mental anguish under its interpretation of Alabama law.
  • Initial damage awards in this first phase of trial are in the range of expected results given previous verdict on liability.

Quinn and Hunter said numerous legal errors were made throughout this trial, adding Solutia plans to appeal all rulings resulting from the misstatement or misapplication of Alabama law.

The company continues to look for ways to narrow the number of plaintiffs in this case to "valid claims," so that the case can be brought to "a quick and reasonable" resolution, according to a statement issued by Solutia.

The statement added the company "remains committed to an effective cleanup of PCBs in Anniston and surrounding areas" and has already spent $53 million on that work. "We believe that the best and quickest way to achieve the cleanup is with the approval of the EPA Consent Decree," concluded the statement.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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