Six proposed class action suits over water contamination allegedly caused by a popular weed killer will all proceed at the same time, according to an order signed by Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder.
Crowder's one page order entered Jan. 4 denied defendants' motion to designate Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. as lead case in the series of lawsuits over atrazine.
The order also allows attorney Stephen Tillery to add additional plaintiffs -- Mount Olive and Litchfield -- to the cases which are led by Holiday Shores Sanitation District.
Crowder reserved ruling on whether the amended complaint submitted by the plaintiffs "relates back" to the original.
She is set to hear motions in all of the cases Thursday at 10 a.m.
In her order, Crowder wrote that defendants did not make their case for letting Syngenta go first, a move that had been opposed by Tillery during a Dec. 14 hearing.
"While the court has the inherent authority to manage cases and its own docket, the defendants must show good cause that the interests of justice will be served by granting their request," the order reads. "They did not. Further, defendants did not establish good cause that the other cases should be stayed or continued pending Syngenta's trial."
The defendants had argued that because Syngenta is the lead maker of atrazine, it should go to trial first to speed the discovery process and flow of all of the class actions.
Tillery countered that the defendants did not have the right to decide which should go first and that they could not know what he would ask for in discovery.
The lawsuits allege that the weed killer atrazine runs off of fields and contaminates drinking water.
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled that atrazine is safe in drinking water up to three parts per billion, Holiday Shores alleges that atrazine in even lower contaminations causes fetal death and other health problems in humans.
Crowder is scheduled to hear other pending motions in the Jan. 7 hearing. Of those, there is currently a move by defendant Growmark for dismissal. The company is a defendant in all of the suits.
Defendant Sipcam Agro USA is also asking to be dismissed.
Plaintiffs filed a renewed motion to compel Jan. 4 and there are other discovery matters pending.
Crowder inherited the cases in August from Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, who will retire later this year.