Settlement conference set in federal atrazine class action; Judge wants statements filed under seal

Amelia Flood Feb. 7, 2011, 10:28am


A settlement could be in the works in a proposed federal class action over water contamination allegedly caused by atrazine, a weed killer commonly used by farmers.

According to an order signed Feb. 3 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Phillip Frazier, a settlement conference is set April 11 in a suit led by the City of Greenville against Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. and its Swiss parent company.

The parties to the Greenville case are to submit a settlement conference statement under seal to the judge by April 4, Frazier's order states.

The conference is to be an informal discussion of settlement prospects, the order states.

Frazier's order mandates that the contents of the settlement statement will not be disclosed unless by court order.

If the parties wish to call off the conference, they are to notify the court at least 72 hours prior to the meeting.

Greenville filed the suit in U.S. Court for the Southern District of Illinois last year.

It proposes to lead a class of municipalities and water providers in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and other states against the Syngenta defendants.

The plaintiffs claim that atrazine runs off farm fields into their water supplies. They claim that they must then remediate the atrazine levels in those water supplies.

Syngenta, the leading maker of atrazine, has tried to have the federal suit, as well as six nearly identical proposed class actions pending in Madison County, dismissed.

Stephen Tillery of St. Louis and his team of attorneys filed the federal and state court cases.

The Madison County suits include Syngenta along with Growmark, United Agri-Products, and other makers and distributors of the herbicide as defendants.

Of the Madison County suits, only the Syngenta case has made any progress.

It is currently embroiled in a number of discovery disputes related to what documents several non-parties to the suit -- including the Heartland Institute, University of Chicago, and Illinois Farm Bureau -- must turn over to the plaintiffs.

A hearing is set in the Madison County Syngenta case next week before Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge.

Kurtis Reeg and others represent the Syngenta defendants in both suits.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Phillip Gilbert also oversees the Greenville suit.

The 2004 Madison County suit is Madison case number 04-L-710.

The federal case is case number 3:10-cv-00188-JPG –PMF.

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