Crowder allows atrazine amended complaint to go ahead, adds new chemicals to the mix

Amelia Flood Nov. 23, 2009, 9:00am


Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder has given attorney Stephen Tillery the go-ahead to amend and expand his class action complaints against makers of the most commonly used herbicide among corn growers.

A copy of Crowder's Nov. 20 order was not yet available in the case file.

Crowder heard arguments on the matter last month.

Defendants in the suits over atrazine had objected to expanding the complaints, with one attorney calling the addition of 12 "daughter" chemicals a "nightmare."

The class actions, in which Holiday Shores Sanitation District is lead plaintiff, argue that atrazine contaminates water supplies. Although the standard for safe atrazine levels in water is three parts per billion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the suits allege that atrazine in that and lower concentrations can cause fetal death and other issues in humans.

According to the Nov. 20 order, the plaintiffs are allowed to amend their complaints to include new named plaintiffs such as the city of Carlinville and Mattoon.

Tillery has indicated he would add up to 66 new named plaintiffs.

The defendants had argued that many of the proposed new plaintiffs don't fit the class definition.

The so-called daughter chemical inclusion had been one of the most fiercely argued points by defendants in hearings leading up to Crowder's order.

Defense attorney Kurtis Reeg had told Crowder that the "mixture theory," proposed in the new complaints would unfairly complicate the defendant's position and make a defense impossible due to the broad range of chemicals that would be added.

Crowder reserved judgment on the issue of how the second amended complaint's claims relate back to the original complaints that were filed in 2004. That issue had been raised several times during arguments by the defendants.

The order struck the plaintiffs' prayers for relief that sought an order requiring the defendants, should they lose the suits, to come up with remedial plans.

Crowder took over the cases from Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack in August. Stack will retire next year.

On Nov. 16, Crowder also entered an order denying a defense motion for a protective order to limit discovery pertaining to the class certification issues. She also denied a blanket protection order request made by the defendants, denied a protective order relating to test results outside of Illinois and a plea for a protective order as to the defendants' memberships in industry and lobbying groups.

A case management conference in the cases is set for Dec. 14 at 10 a.m.

Reeg represents Syngenta and United Agri-Products.

Robert Shultz represents Dow and Growmark. Growmark is a defendant in all of the cases.

Makhteshim is represented by Russell Scott.

Sipcam Agro USA is represented by Geoffrey Bryce.

The atrazine case numbers are 04-L-708 to 04-L-713.

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