Discovery continues in Syngenta atrazine class action in federal court

Amelia Flood Nov. 11, 2010, 4:00am



EAST ST. LOUIS - An order settling a dispute over discovery documents is the latest action in a federal suit brought against the makers of the weed killer atrazine.

U.S. District Court Judge Phil Gilbert entered an order Nov. 4 resolving issues related to what documents a proposed class of water providers in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and other states can use in trial and pre-trial hearings.

The proposed class, led by the City of Greenville and other named plaintiffs, are suing Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. and its parent company, Syngenta AG, for alleged water contamination.

The plaintiffs contend that atrazine runs off farm fields, fouls their drinking water supplies, and causes health problems.

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

A dismissal motion filed May 18 by the defense is also pending.

Syngenta is also fighting a nearly identical suit filed in 2004 by the same group of attorneys in Madison County.

That group, led by Stephen Tillery, filed six class actions in Madison County six years ago on behalf of lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitation District and several Illinois cities.

Those cases are on their way to the Fifth District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder certified defense questions for appeal last week, and is considering whether or not to certify questions for appeal brought by the plaintiffs on Nov. 8.

All of the questions relate to an order governing what discovery Holiday Shores could take from non-parties in the case, such as the Illinois Farm Bureau, chemical industry lobbying groups and a non-profit organization.

The federal case filed earlier this year by Tillery has been proceeding through its initial discovery phase.

Syngenta also moved to dismiss the federal case in May, citing a lack of jurisdiction.

The Switzerland-based company claims that there is not a significant enough tie to bind it to Illinois and that the federal court would violate due process by asserting jurisdiction in the case.

Synengta AG has won dismissal in federal court before on the same grounds.

Gilbert allowed Syngenta to cite additional authority in support of its dismissal move Oct. 29.

His Nov. 4 order also gives Greenville and the other lead plaintiffs until Dec. 19 to comply with defense document production requests.

Kurtis Reeg, Michael Pope and Mark Surprenant represent Syngenta.

The case is federal case number 10-188-JPG-PMF.

The Madison County Syngenta case is case number 04-L710.

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