Crowder denies motions to dismiss and stay in atrazine class action

Ann Knef Sep. 2, 2010, 10:54am


Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder has denied motions to stay and to dismiss a proposed class action against a leading maker of the herbicide atrazine.

Crowder has had the motions under advisement since May in one of six cases brought by attorney Stephen Tillery in 2004 against Syngenta Crop Protection and other manufacturers and distributors of the commonly used agricultural product. Lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitation District and various Illinois municipalities claim atrazine runs off farm fields, contaminates water supplies and causes medical problems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that atrazine is safe in drinking water up to three parts per billion. But, the plaintiffs contend that even smaller amounts cause health issues.

Earlier this year, Tillery filed a nearly identical class action in federal court in East St. Louis on behalf of water providers in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and other states. That case does not include the plaintiffs in the Madison County suits.

Syngenta had asked Crowder to either dismiss the Madison County case or to stay it until the newer federal suit is resolved.

In an order entered Aug. 31, Crowder wrote that parties to the action should not be dismissed or delayed due to a similar action.

"The court realizes that there is no specific rule that a later filed case does not prevent the stay or dismissal or an earlier filed action," she wrote. "However, the parties are not identical in the newer action and it does not include only Illinois parties."

Circuit Judge Daniel Stack had previously presided over the Madison County cases. For more than two years Stack had under advisement motions to dismiss, and in 2008 he denied them.

Tillery has amended the suits multiple times, prompting the defense to renew its motions for dismissal.

In denying Syngenta's motion, Crowder wrote, "The court does not believe the amendments to the complaint have materially changed the allegations that existed when the prior judge ruled on the motions to dismiss.

"If anything, plaintiffs' have removed some allegations regarding property damage, dimunition in the property values, and the injunctive provisions and request for a remedial plan that were noted as problems and ordered dismissed previously."

Syngenta attorney Alan Nadel of Greensboro, N.C. reacted by saying the company regrets but respects Crowder's ruling.

"As we argued to her honor, we think this is wasteful litigation that will result in costly and unnecessary duplication of judicial effort and resources," Nadel said in a statement.

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