A defendant in a series of suits over alleged water contamination by a common weed killer will once again ask a Madison County judge to stay the suit until a nearly identical federal case is resolved.
Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder put off hearing arguments on Syngenta Crop Protection Inc.'s motion to dismiss or stay the proposed Madison County class action brought against it by lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitary District on May 26.
Syngenta's attorney Kurtis Reeg asked Crowder to put off hearing arguments on the motion due to the need to respond to more than 300 pages of discovery documents delivered the night before the May hearing.
Holiday Shores proposes to lead a class of Illinois water providers against makers and distributors of atrazine.
It alleges that the herbicide runs off farmers' fields into drinking water supplies.
According to the plaintiffs, the contaminated water then causes medical problems in human beings. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ruled atrazine is safe in water up to three parts per billion.
Crowder took over the cases last year from Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack who will retire later this year.
The hearing is set to begin at 10 a.m.
Syngenta asked Crowder to throw out or stay the suit before her due to the filing of a federal suit against Syngenta earlier this year.
Lead plaintiff's counsel Stephen Tillery filed the nearly identical case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois alleging claims against the company on behalf of water providers in Ohio, Missouri, Kansas and others states.
Syngenta argues in its May 4 motion that the federal court would provide the appropriate remedy to the Madison County suit's potential class and that the company would be fighting the same suit in two courts.
In his May 25 response, Tillery points to the fact that the Madison County class is not currently a party to the federal action.
The motion goes on to argue that the defense is attempting to overplay what, if any, relief the federal class may receive at that case's end.
"Consequently the federal case will resolve none of Plaintiffs' claims before this Court," the motion reads.
The plaintiffs deny the suits duplicate each other and that the Madison class can even join the federal case.
"The truth is that Illinois courts have no problem letting class actions proceed even where there are numerous earlier filed class actions pending in other courts across the country," the motion argues.
The plaintiffs contend that a stay would also create hardships for them.
"So staying this case pending the outcome of the federal case would simply put this case on ice with a guarantee that no progress will be made in the interim," the motion reads. "Once the federal case is over, Plaintiffs would be forced to start anew, and all the while they will continue to suffer contamination and expense at the hands of Syngenta. Simply put, a stay of this case pending the resolution of the federal case is completely illogical, and would be extremely prejudicial to the Plaintiffs."
Tillery also filed a motion to compel against Syngenta regarding discovery issues related to absent class members.
Syngenta has also filed its response to certain discovery matters.
The atrazine cases are just getting into the discovery phases.
Crowder has already refereed several discovery disputes between the plaintiffs and defendants.
The latest was May 26 when Reeg pointed to the delivery of over 300 pages of discovery at the close of business the night before the hearing.
The Syngenta suit is one of five filed by Tillery over atrazine in water in 2004.
The others are also pending before Crowder.
The Syngenta case is Madison case number 04-L-710.
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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)