Plaintiffs seek to change case schedule in federal Syngenta atrazine class action

Amelia Flood May 11, 2011, 7:16am



The plaintiffs in a federal class action against Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. and Syngenta AG are asking the court to change the suit's case management order, a move that defendants oppose.

The City of Greenville filed its motion asking for the schedule changes in the 2010 case on April 28.

Greenville is represented by attorney Stephen Tillery and others.

Syngenta is represented by attorney Kurtis Reeg and others.

In that motion, Greenville argues that it needs a three month extension on its initial discovery period in order to get answers to interrogatories it claims the Syngenta defendants have not provided.

Such an extension, if granted, would push back the class certification issue in the suit until next year.

The current deadline laid out in previous court orders for discovery related to class certification is Aug. 1.

Greenville filed suit on behalf of what could be a multi-state class of cities and water providers last year.

Greenville alleges it and other water providers have been forced to remediate drinking water supplies when atrazine runs off farm fields into those supplies.

The allegations in the federal case are virtually identical to claims brought in six proposed class actions filed against Syngenta and other companies that make and distribute atrazine in Madison County.

Those suits, filed in 2004, have made little progress in seven years.

The Syngenta case pending in Madison County before Circuit Judge William Mudge has gone furthest, although it has been bogged down in discovery disputes.

Neither the federal case nor any of the Madison County atrazine class actions have been certified.

Syngenta filed its opposition to the schedule changes May 3.

It questions why Greenville requires more time for discovery.

"Plaintiffs have not articulated why they will be unable to address the narrow issues related to class certification by the Aug. 1, 2011 deadline," the response reads.

Syngenta also counters that contrary to the plaintiffs' claims that they have not kept up the discovery pace, the companies have turned over 4.6 million documents.

The defendants also allege that aside from an April 26 telephone conference where an extension was mentioned, the plaintiffs did not discuss asking for more discovery time before filing the April 28 motion.

"Syngenta has been working in good faith to resolve the outstanding discovery issues so that the parties can meet the deadline," the response reads. "It is disappointing, therefore, that Plaintiffs, rather than propose new deadlines to Syngenta, simply filed this motion."

Greenville filed its reply to Syngenta's response on the matter May 10.

In the May 10 filing, the plaintiffs deny that the defendant was willing to work with them on changing deadlines in the case.

The plaintiffs also question whether the former case management order in the case, entered in the summer of 2010, is realistic.

"The current scheduling order was based on the assumption that discovery disputes with [Syngenta] would not drag on well into the summer," the May 10 reply reads. "That assumption, unfortunately, is doomed to prove false."

Other issues that remain ongoing in the federal suit include a move by Syngenta AG to dismiss the claims against it on the grounds of a lack of personal jurisdiction over the Switzerland-based company and a move by two environmental groups to have documents in the case unsealed.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Phil Gilbert presides.

The case is pending in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

It is case number 10-cv-188-JPG-PMF.

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