BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Jurors today found Monsanto Co. liable for failing to warn a Missouri town about the risks of a 1979 chemical spill that contained less than a teaspoon of dioxin, and awarded plaintiffs $16.2 million after one of the nation's longest jury trials.
The 65 plaintiffs, who said they were sickened by the spill, had sought $100 million in punitive damages and $35.4 million in compensatory damages. The lawsuit accused the chemical company in the Jan. 10, 1979, spill of a 19,000-gallon rail shipment of raw material used in a wood preservative over a half-mile area in Sturgeon, Mo.
The trial began Feb. 22, 1984, and included testimony from 182 witnesses, 6,000 exhibits and more than 100,000 pages of transcripts.
Jury deliberations began Aug. 26 and were interrupted Sept. 14 when jurors said they couldn't reach a decision. Judge Richard Goldenhersh sent them back to continue deliberating.
The case stems from an accident in which a tank car ruptured as it passed through Sturgeon on its way to Tacoma, Wash., from Monsanto's Sauget, Ill., plant.