CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A hearing begins Monday to determine whether a multimillion-dollar settlement in the huge class-action Monsanto dioxin lawsuit should be approved.
The judge must decide if the settlement reached Feb. 24, after nearly a decade of litigation, is fair, reasonable and adequate.
Under the tentative agreement, chemical giant Monsanto will provide class-members up to $93 million. The company has agreed to a 30-year medical monitoring program with a primary fund of $21 million for testing, and up to $63 million in additional funding, if necessary. It also has agreed to spend $9 million cleaning 4,500 homes.
The settlement also would allow residents to retain their right to file personal-injury lawsuits against Monsanto if medical tests turn up illnesses potentially related to dioxin exposure.
Word of the settlement emerged on the eve of an expected six-month trial in a case in which Nitro-area residents sought medical monitoring for dioxin-related illnesses and a cleanup of what they argue is a contaminated community.
Before an agreement in a class-action lawsuit is finalized, the members of the class must be notified of the proposed settlement and given a chance to object to its terms.
Expert testimony must be presented to prove the settlement is appropriate and that the testing procedures of the medical monitoring match the benefits that originally were sought, among other things.
In their lawsuit filed in 2004, Nitro residents said Monsanto unsafely burned dioxin wastes and spread contaminated soot and dust across the city, polluting homes with unsafe levels of the chemical.
For more than 50 years, the Monsanto plant in Nitro churned out herbicides, rubber products and other chemicals. The plant's production of the defoliant Agent Orange created dioxin as a toxic chemical byproduct.