Pfizer, Inc. acquired a handful of top-selling drugs when it bought rival Pharmacia Corp. for $57 billion last month and became nation’s largest pharmaceutical company.

It also picked up something else: liability for up to $46 billion in contamination damages from Pharmacia’s Monsanto Co. subsidiary, which produced the toxic industrial chemical PCB in Anniston from the 1930s through the mid-1970s.

On Wednesday, Birmingham law firm Shelby Roden & Cartee filed an amendment to its federal suit against Pharmacia, naming Pfizer as the new defendant. The suit, one of two PCB-related complaints against the company, includes 17,000 plaintiffs and is set for trial Oct. 14.

A state court has awarded more than $17.5 million in compensatory damages to plaintiffs in the other case. Prior to being acquired by Pharmacia in 2000, Monsanto spinoff Solutia Inc. paid $43 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by landowners who accused the company of dumping PCBs into Logan Martin Lake and Choccolocco Creek. A 2001 federal trial ended with a $40 million settlement.

Pfizer is the maker of prescription drugs Celebrex, Viagra and Zoloft, as well as over-the-counter remedies such as Benadryl and Sudafed. In a statement, Shelby Roden says attorney David Shelby is exploring what Pfizer knew about Pharmacia’s PCB liability prior to the acquisition.

The prosecution team also includes Birmingham’s Davis & Norris LLP and Montgomery’s Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles P.C.

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