Syngenta seeks to cite additional authority as atrazine hearing nears

Amelia Flood Jul. 7, 2011, 7:54am

Defendant Syngenta AG is asking to cite additional authority in the form of a recent United States Supreme Court opinion as a hearing date on its motion to dismiss a federal case brought by water providers over alleged contamination caused by the company's weed killer atrazine.

Syngenta AG moved more than a year ago to dismiss the case filed by proposed lead plaintiff the City of Greenville for a lack of personal jurisdiction.

The hearing on the motion is set for July 27 at 10 a.m.

Greenville filed suit against Syngenta AG and its North American arm, Syngenta Crop Protection LLC, last year proposing to a lead a multi-state class of water providers on claims that are nearly identical to six proposed class actions filed in Madison County in 2004.

The Syngenta defendants are also at the table in Madison County in one of the six 2004 cases.

In both the Madison County and the federal suit filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, the plaintiffs claim that atrazine runs off farm fields into drinking water supplies that they must then remediate.

Syngenta AG, based in Switzerland, has argued that it lacks the Illinois connections needed to give the Southern District court jurisdiction over it.

A number of exhibits related to the motion to dismiss were filed under seal, prompting another pending move filed by two environmental groups seeking to unseal them.

Syngenta AG opposes the intervention by the Environmental Law & Policy Center and Prairie Rivers Network. The company has accused the groups of being pawns of the plaintiffs.

The pair denies the defendant's claims.

In its July 6 filing, Syngenta AG asks to be allowed to cite J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. vs. Nicastro, a case decided by the Supreme Court June 27.

The J. McIntyre case began as a suit filed by the plaintiff seeking damages after injuring his hand in a metal shearing machine made by J. McIntyre, a British company.

The New Jersey case asserted personal jurisdiction over J. McIntyre based on the fact that an American distributor agreed to sell the company's machine, J. McIntyre personnel represented the company at trade shows although none in New Jersey and at least one machine made by the company ended up in New Jersey.

The New Jersey State Supreme Court held that the state court could exercise personal jurisdiction over J. McIntyre without running afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause because the defendant could reasonably expect that its products would be sold throughout the United States.

The high court disagreed and reversed the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruling.

The court also took a narrow view of what circumstances warrant personal jurisdiction over foreign defendants.

Syngenta AG asks in its July 6 filing to cite the case in support of its own motion.

None of the cases filed over the atrazine claims have been certified to date.

The Syngenta case in Madison County, filed by the Holiday Shores Sanitary District, has made the most progress of all the cases to date.

It has been beset with discovery disputes.

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge is set to hear motions in the Holiday Shores vs. Syngenta case July 15.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Phil Gilbert presides in the Southern District case.

Kurtis Reeg, Michael Pope, Christopher Murphy and others represent the Syngenta defendants in both cases.

Stephen Tillery, Christie Deaton, and others represent both the Greenville and Holiday Shores plaintiffs.

The case is federal case number 10-188-JPG-PMF.

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