Appellate court receives Syngenta discovery order appeal in atrazine class action

Amelia Flood Dec. 7, 2010, 6:55am


The appellate court at Mount Vernon has received the appeal of a discovery order targeted by both sides and third parties in one of a series of proposed class actions over the weed killer atrazine.

Lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitary District, defendant Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. and non-parties to the suit including the Heartland Institute took issue with a discovery order signed in September by Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder that sought to deal with discovery requests and subpoenas.

Holiday Shores is suing Syngenta and other makers and distributors of atrazine over alleged water contamination it and other water providers claim they must remediate.

Although the United State Environmental Protection Agency has declared that atrazine is safe in drinking water up to three parts per billion, the plaintiffs contend they and a class of water providers have been damaged.

The plaintiffs also claim that concentrations of atrazine that are lower than the EPA limit are harmful to human health.

The Syngenta case is one of six proposed class actions filed over atrazine in Madison County six years ago by the lead plaintiff.

The Syngenta case has made the most progress to date because the company is the primary maker of the herbicide.

Holiday Shores had subpoenaed and served discovery requests related to Syngenta and atrazine on the Heartland Institute, Illinois Farm Bureau and chemical industry trade groups.

The non-parties objected to the requests on First Amendment grounds.

They asked Crowder to quash the subpoenas.

After hearing arguments, Crowder issued a discovery order Sept. 22 in which the judge wrote she attempted to balance the First
Amendment concerns with what Holiday Shores could discover.

Both sides asked for clarification and eventually Crowder certified questions for appeal submitted by the two tables.

Most recently, the farm bureau submitted its response to a Holiday Shores discovery request Nov. 24.

It is also awaiting the outcome of the appeal, according to that filing.

Another third party in the suit, Du-Con is also seeking to quash a defense discovery subpoena, claiming that Holiday Shores and not Du-Con has the records Syngenta seeks.

The appellate court received the appeal Dec. 1, according to the letter notifying Madison County dated two days later.

Stephen Tillery, Christie Deaton and others represent Holiday Shores.

Kurtis Reeg and others represent Syngenta.

Mark Bell represents the Heartland Institute.

Christopher Byron represents the farm bureau.

Bob Perica represents Du-Con.

Although Crowder has overseen hearings and made rulings in the case to date, the case was technically transferred to former Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack's docket.

Stack retired Friday.

Former Madison County State's Attorney William Mudge won Stack's seat in November's election. He was sworn in Monday.

The Syngenta case is Madison case number 04-L-710.

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

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