Syngenta files responses to sanctions moves centered on Swiss documents, market share data

Amelia Flood Apr. 20, 2011, 9:23am



Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. has filed two responses to sanctions moves aimed at it by the lead plaintiff in a proposed class action over alleged water contamination caused by the company's weed killer, atrazine.

The responses and sanctions moves filed by lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitary District are related to documents held by Syngenta's Swiss parent-company, Syngenta AG, and market share data.

The moves come as discovery disputes continue in the 2004 case, one of six nearly identical proposed atrazine class actions currently before Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge.

Holiday Shores and the other named lead plaintiffs in the suit allege that atrazine runs off farm fields into their drinking water supplies.

The plaintiffs then claim they must remediate the contamination.

Syngenta denies the allegations and has tried at points to have the case dismissed or stayed pending the outcome of a 2010 federal atrazine suit filed by Holiday Shores' attorneys – Stephen Tillery, Christine Moody and Christie Deaton among others- in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

The dispute is one of a series that have plagued the case since discovery began in earnest in 2009.

The current matter, along with arguments related to when an expert witness was retained by the defendant, will be before Mudge May 6 for hearing.

Both of the sanctions responses were filed April 15.

In the response related to the documents allegedly held by Syngenta in Switzerland, the defendant points to Swiss law as one of the hold-ups it has been attempting to resolve.

"To date, Plaintiffs have flatly refused to even address, much less argue any inapplicability of various Swiss laws to their discovery requests in this litigation," the response reads.

Syngenta suggests that Swiss law, and not the company itself, is slowing the documents Holiday Shores seeks and that the sanctions move is premature.

"As [Syngenta] has pointed out on numerous occasions, Plaintiffs could apply to this Madison County Circuit Court for an order directed to the Swiss authorities to request international judicial assistance from the competent Swiss authority to authorize the release of the requested information and documents," the response reads. "Plaintiffs continue to beat the sanctions drum to no avail . . . [Syngenta] has also been continuously candid and open with Plaintiffs and the Court not only about the issues created by Swiss laws but also about its willingness to facilitate the process through which such documents may be produced."

The company asks Mudge to deny the sanctions request as "baseless."

Syngenta also addresses the market share data issue in its second response.

It contends the plaintiff is misreading documents produced by a non-party in the case, the University of Chicago.

It also alleges it has turned over documents related to Illinois sales of atrazine but that it does not keep state by state market share statistics.

Motions to compel and other matters are also pending in the case.

None of the 2004 atrazine cases or the 2010 federal class action have been certified to date.

Kurtis Reeg represents Syngenta.

The Syngenta case is Madison case number 04-L-710.
The atrazine cases are Madison case numbers 04-L-708 to 04-L-713.

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