Illinois American added as plaintiff in Tillery's case against atrazine maker

Ann Knef Mar. 25, 2010, 7:13am


Attorney Stephen Tillery has added several public water companies as plaintiffs in a proposed federal class action lawsuit against a leading maker of the herbicide atrazine.

Illinois American Water Co. and other Midwestern states' water utilities have been included in an amended claim against Swiss-based Syngenta AG and its U.S. subsidiary, Syngenta Crop Protection. Plaintiffs seek costs for removing atrazine from public drinking water.

Illinois American provides water to more than 1.2 million people in over 120 communities in Illinois through 12 districts. It is headquartered in Belleville.

The case -- filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois -- seeks class action status for municipalities and water treatment providers in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa and Ohio. The amended complaint filed Wednesday also added Missouri-American, Indiana-American, Iowa-American, Ohio-American water companies and others as plaintiffs.

Illinois municipalities included in Tillery's federal suit are Greenville, Coulterville, Evansville, Farina and Gillespie.

Excluded from the federal suit are water providers that have brought individual or class actions over atrazine contamination. Tillery claims the class could consist of at least several hundred members.

His co-counsel includes Patricia Murphy of the Murphy Law Office of Energy. She is wife of U.S. District Judge Patrick Murphy.

Baron & Budd of Dallas also is listed as co-counsel.

Tillery's federal suit mirrors the six proposed class action cases he brought to Madison County circuit court.

In those cases, lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitation District also alleges that atrazine contaminates drinking water supplies.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has extensively studied atrazine -- the most commonly used herbicide among corn growers --and has ruled that it is safe in drinking water up to three parts per billion.

However, the plaintiffs contend that atrazine in smaller concentrations can cause medical problems in human beings including fetal death.

Tillery's Madison County cases have been amended to include seven Illinois municipalities -- Carlinville, Litchfield, Mount Olive, Flora, Mattoon, Fairfield and Hillsboro.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder has taken under advisement defense motions to transfer the cities' claims back to their home counties.

Defendants argued that the seven municipalities could not sue in Madison County because most of their claims related to property damages and those claims have to be brought locally.

While Tillery dropped most of the property-related claims and has since filed a second amended complaint without them, the defendants still contend that the seven cities can't sue in Madison County.

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