Crowder to hear atrazine motions in new year

Amelia Flood Dec. 22, 2009, 8:52am


Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder is scheduled to hear more motions in a series of proposed class action suits over water contamination stemming from a popular weed killer.

Among the motions recently filed is a move to dismiss defendants Sipcam Agro USA Inc. and Growmark, Inc. Growmark is a defendant in all of the six cases pending.

The two filed their memorandum of law to support the motion Dec. 16.

The next atrazine motion hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. on Jan. 7.

Lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitation District originally filed the suits against the makers of the weed killer atrazine, claiming that it runs off of fields and contaminates drinking water.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that atrazine is safe to drink in three parts per billion, the suits allege that atrazine in even lower concentrations can cause problems in human beings such as fetal death.

Recently, Crowder took a motion to add additional lead plaintiffs under advisement as well as a move by the defendants to designate Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. as the lead in the cases. Plaintiff's counsel Stephen Tillery opposed the move at the case's last motion hearing Dec. 14.

The defendants argued against adding Mount Olive and the other named communities because they are not located in Madison County and may not fit the class definition.

Crowder has not yet entered her decision on the pending motions as of Dec. 22.

Sipcam and Growmark argue that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring their suit because an earlier order by then-presiding Judge Daniel Stack found that neither could prove they suffered an injury because their drinking water met current standards.

The defendants also contend that the plaintiffs fail to state claims for negligence and strict liability and that the claims of several named plaintiffs such as Carlinville, Flora, Hillsboro and other Illinois cities, were joined to the cases improperly.

Crowder had previously allowed the five cities to join the case as named plaintiffs in a subsequent order that was opposed by all the defendants.

Stack, who presided over the suits until August, had previously heard the defendants' motion to dismiss. Sipcam and Growmark claim that he made a mistake in denying it.

"Judge Stack's rulings are not law-of-the-case, and this Court is free to take a fresh look at any or all of the arguments previously raised by the defendants," the Dec. 16 memorandum reads.

Stack heard the motion to dismiss and denied it two years ago.

At the time, the defendants had moved to dismiss the first amended complaint. The complaint has since been amended.

Stack granted part of the defendants' motion by striking certain claims.

Crowder took over the cases in August due to Stack's impending retirement next year.

The defendants in the case are as follows and are represented by:

Sipcam is represented by Geoffrey Bryce.

Growmark is represented by Robert Shultz Jr.

Syngenta is represented by Kurtis Reeg.

United Agri-Products Inc. is represented by Reeg in a special limited appearance.

Drexel Chemical Company is represented by Daniel Cray.

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

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

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