U.S. Magistrate Philip Frazier has denied a defendant's motion for a protective order on documents sought in a proposed class action involving atrazine, as well as the company's request for an order prohibiting depositions of witnesses who are not its employees or directors.

In his Feb. 13 ruling, Frazier wrote that he found Syngenta AG's motion "premature," regarding a request for agendas and minutes of the Swiss company's executive committee, board of directors and other non-parties to the litigation, and depositions of 14 witnesses who are not employed by Syngenta.

He wrote that an order will be entered when justice requires protection from "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense."

"The Court has reviewed the items submitted and finds that a protective order would be premature," he wrote.

Syngenta, a major manufacturer of the herbicide atrazine, had argued that discovery demands made by St. Louis attorney Stephen Tillery were overly broad and could subject the company to violating Swiss laws, thereby exposing its officers to criminal penalties and/or civil sanctions.

The class action unfolding in federal court in the Southern District of Illinois seeks costs of filtering atrazine from surface water sources in six Midwestern states, including Illinois. It mirrors a Madison County class action against Syngenta, one of six cases filed by lead plaintiff Holiday Shores Sanitary District in 2004 – also by Tillery - against a variety of manufacturers of the weed killer.

Frazier is handling discovery in the case for District Judge Phil Gilbert.

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