Syngenta calls sanctions move a 'meritless crusade' in atrazine class action

Amelia Flood Jun. 16, 2011, 9:23am


Syngenta Crop Protection LLC is calling a sanctions move filed by the lead plaintiffs in a proposed class action centered on the weed killer atrazine "flatly wrong," and is part of a "meritless crusade for sanctions."

Lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitary District has a number of discovery-related sanctions moves currently pending in a Madison County class action.

Circuit Judge William Mudge will hear those motions June 22 and other matters related to protective orders and depositions throughout the week leading up to the hearing.

Syngenta's latest response takes issue with a Holiday Shores sanctions move related to the production of foreign documents held by Syngenta's Switzerland-based parent company, Syngenta AG.

Syngenta filed its response to the sanctions move June 15.

Discovery disputes have plagued the 2004 case, one of a series filed that year that take aim at the makers and distributors of atrazine.

Atrazine is a weed killer commonly used by farmers.

The Holiday Shores plaintiffs propose to lead a class of Illinois water providers who are seeking to recover damages based on claims that class members are forced to remediate water supplies when atrazine runs off farm fields and contaminates those supplies.

The Madison County cases sparked a nearly identical multi-state class action last year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

None of the Madison County cases nor the federal case's classes have been certified to date.

In the June 15 response, Syngenta points to "an abrupt about-face" by the plaintiffs regarding the production of documents.

"Plaintiff initially argued that Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC...should be sanctioned for failing to produce documents in the possession of Syngenta's foreign parent and affiliate companies," the response reads. "In an abrupt about-face, Plaintiffs now appear to be complaining about Syngenta's purported failure to produce domestic documents from its group file shares and SharePoint system. Plaintiffs are flatly wrong, and their meritless crusade for sanctions should end."

The defendant argues that the plaintiffs' sanctions argument relates to a single person's deposition and that Holiday Shores ignores that other people were collecting, reviewing, and processing the disputed discovery documents.

The company points to an e-mail by a paralegal sent to a number of Syngenta's employees regarding the document collection efforts.

Syngenta also cites lists of group file shares and other data collected by its outside counsel that have been produced as part of rolling document production.

"Plaintiffs' new basis for seeking sanctions is demonstrably false," the response argues.

Syngenta goes on to argue that the plaintiffs have not offered arguments disputing claims made by Syngenta counsel Kurtis Reeg during previous hearings in the case that Swiss laws hinder the ability of Syngenta to produce the Switzerland-held documents.

The defendant goes on to note that the federal court at the Southern District in 2010 had rejected the plaintiff's position on the Swiss documents in the case led by the City of Greenville.

Syngenta asks Mudge to deny the sanctions move.

Stephen Tillery leads the plaintiffs' team in both the Holiday Shores and Greenville cases.

Reeg is also listed as Syngenta's counsel in the federal case along with Michael Pope and Mark Suprenant.

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

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