Mudge ado about nothing

The Madison County Record Mar. 24, 2012, 7:34am

A big factor contributing to the escalation of health care costs in America is the excessive reliance on diagnostic tests.

You can't blame doctors, though. They may feel compelled to order expensive tests less for the sake of the patients' health than for the sake of self-protection. Tests that once might not have been given are now relied upon as added safeguards against potential lawsuits.

Anyone operating in a "gotcha" environment soon learns that you can't be overly cautious. Even if you dot every I and cross every T, somebody will say that the dots could be darker and the crosses less crooked.

This is somewhat the position that Syngenta employees find themselves in – thanks to the tactics of attorney Stephen Tillery, as enabled by Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge.

Tillery represents several southern Illinois towns that claim Syngenta's weedkiller atrazine is running off farmland and contaminating their water supplies. He wants access to thousands of Syngenta employee emails to see if he can find anything to justify the class action suits he's filed.

Typically, Tillery, rather than prove his cases, seeks instead to burden defendants with so many demands that they feel compelled to settle. Whence the email fishing expedition.

Although Judge Mudge denied Tillery's motion seeking all emails to Syngenta's in-house counsel, he ordered the company to stop mislabeling emails as "privileged" and to instruct its employees to "cease copying all emails that simply mention atrazine counsel in an effort to avoid the production of otherwise discoverable material."

Mudge warned that he would order all emails produced if it appears that "any effort is being made to inappropriately label emails or copy emails to in-house counsel."

Are Syngenta employees being overly cautious? Can you blame them, when anything they say in an email possibly can or will be used against them in a court of law?

Maybe it's time for Mudge to get tough with Tillery instead of a defendant that's trying to run a business in spite of the legal roadblocks Tillery keeps trying to construct.

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