Defendants move to designate lead in atrazine lawsuits

Amelia Flood Dec. 2, 2009, 7:55am

If Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder grants their motion, defendants in a series of pending suits over a common weed killer will have a new leader, in the form of Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. and its attorneys.

Syngenta's counsel, Kurtis Reeg, has already taken the lead in several hearings in a series of cases filed by attorney Stephen Tillery against atrazine makers.

Defendants filed their joint motion for lead case designation that would put Syngenta and Reeg in the forefront of the litigation. It would also mean that the potential class action suit pending against Syngenta would be tried first and that most rulings in the case would apply to the other defendants as well.

The motion was filed Monday.

Defendants argue that plaintiff would not be burdened by designating a lead case because one of the six cases filed by Holiday Shores will have to be tried first anyway.

"Defendants only seek to streamline the resolution of these cases by designating a lead case for discovery and trial," the motion reads.
Syngenta, the defendants contend, is the main registrant of atrazine and best suited to go first.

If the motion is granted, the defendants say they will propose guidelines to speed the case's trial.

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14.

The 66 plaintiffs in the case, led by the Holiday Shores Sanitation District, argue that the weed killer has run off from fields and has contaminated their water supplies.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that the chemical is safe in three parts per billion, the plaintiffs allege that atrazine in lower concentrations can lead to complications in humans such as fetal death.

The plaintiffs recently amended their complaints to include other chemicals derived from atrazine's breakdown and to add new plaintiffs to their cases.

The class certification issue in the five year-old cases has yet to be determined.

Most recently, Crowder entered an order clarifying her earlier denial of a protective order to Syngenta over discoverable documents.

The cases were originally assigned to Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack. Crowder took over in August due to Stack's impending retirement next year.

Tillery represents the plaintiffs and, if certified, the class in the suits.

The defendants and their counsel are:

Syngenta is represented by Reeg of St. Louis. Reeg also represents United Agri-Products.

Growmark is a defendant in all six cases. It is represented by Robert Shultz Jr. of Edwardsville. Schultz also represents Dow AgroSciences LLC.

Drexel Chemical Company is represented by Daniel Cray of Chicago.
Sipcam Crop Protection Inc. is represented by Geoffrey Bryce of Chicago.

Makhteshim-Agan of North America is represented by Russell Scott of Belleville.

Mark Surprenant of New Orleans and David Bamberger of Washington, D.C. are admitted to the cases pro hac vice for Syngenta and Makhteshim respectively.

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

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