Frazier denies Syngenta move to quash subpoenas to non-parties in atrazine class

Amelia Flood Jul. 12, 2011, 9:00am


U.S. Magistrate Judge Phillip Frazier rejected a move by Syngenta Crop Protection LLC and its Switzerland-based parent company, Syngenta AG, seeking to quash subpoenas issued to 100 non-parties to a federal class action centered on the company's weed killer atrazine.

The defendants filed their motion to quash the 100 subpoenas duces tecum issued by lead plaintiff the City of Greenville on July 8.

Syngenta filed an identical move seeking to quash the 100 non-party subpoenas July 11 in a 2004 Madison County class action filed over atrazine-related claims by the Holiday Shores Sanitary District.

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge is set to take up the matter Friday at 9 a.m.

The federal and Madison County class actions were filed on nearly identical claims.

In both suits, the plaintiffs claim that atrazine runs off farm fields and contaminates drinking water supplies.

The plaintiffs then contend they must remediate those supplies.

The Holiday Shores suit, if certified, would include an Illinois class of cities and water providers.

The Greenville suit, filed last year, would include a multi-state class of water providers. However, two cities in Kansas, the City of Plains and Dodge City, were dropped from the suit in a stipulation filed July 11.

In its federal motion to quash, Syngenta argued that the Greenville plaintiffs were seeking documents and information through the subpoenas that could damage the defendants' position in the marketplace and could also harm the non-parties' business interests.

Syngenta also expressed concerns of the confidentiality of the information.

The arguments the company makes in the July 8 motion filed in the federal case are virtually indistinguishable to those filed in a motion the same day seeking to quash the Madison County subpoenas.

In his July 11 order, Frazier states he does not find the arguments convincing.

"The materials submitted do not demonstrate that relief . . . is appropriate in these circumstances," Frazier's order reads. "In particular, the subpoena submitted for review was carefully worded and does not seek documents related to Syngenta Crop Protection Inc.'s recent pricing data, customer lists, or other material which might qualify as a trade secret. If plaintiffs do acquire such information from non-parties, Syngenta Crop Protection's concerns about maintaining the confidentiality of that information are served by the protective order in place."

The magistrate also goes on to question how much effort Syngenta has put forth to resolve the depositions dispute.

Frazier also denied Syngenta's request for a protective order related to the subpoenaed information as well.

In addition to the ruling on the motion to quash, other activity in the Greenville case includes:

  • A July 11 stipulation dismissing the two Kansan cities.

  • A July 11 notice of appearance filed by attorney Kurtis Reeg, Syngenta's lead counsel in the Holiday Shores suit. Reeg appears on behalf of non-party Crop Production Services, Inc. (CPS).

  • A July 11 objection filed by non-party CPS to the subpoena.

    The Greenville suit is set for hearing July 27 on a Syngenta AG motion to dismiss the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction.

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

    Reeg, Michael Pope and others represent the Syngenta defendants in both proposed class actions.

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

    The underlying Madison County case is case number 04-L-710.

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