Written by: Amie Alexander, JD/MPS Candidate, William H. Bowen School of Law

The City of Chula Vista, California has filed suit against Monsanto Company in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. The City alleges that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), man-made chemical compounds that it considers global environmental contaminants, have contaminated the City’s stormwater system, and have required cleanup in certain areas of the San Diego Bay. Monsanto’s commercially-produced PCBs have been used in a wide range of industrial applications in the United States.

Also named as defendants are Solutia, which in the past operated Monsanto’s chemical manufacturing business, and Pharmacia LLC, a subsidiary of Pfizer, Inc.

The City alleges that Monsanto was aware of the toxic systemic effects of PCBs as early as the 1930s, but repeatedly misrepresented the dangers of PCBs to governmental entities.

The City first alleges that the defendants’ actions in manufacturing, distributing, marketing, and promoting PCBs created a public nuisance that is harmful to health and obstructs the free use of the San Diego Bay. Specifically, the City argues that the presence of PCBs in San Diego Bay meets all three criteria for a “nuisance” under California law because (1) it is injurious to health, is indecent or offensive to the senses, obstructs the use of property; (2) it affects the entire community; and (3) it occurs as a result of the treatment or disposal of wastes.

The City asks the Court to award compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. You can read the complaint in its entirety here.