For once, we agree with Stephen Tillery. The settlement that he browbeat Syngenta Corp. into accepting -- to make him go away and put an end to eight years of legal haggling -- is "more than fair."
Tillery filed suit against Syngenta in Madison County Circuit Court in 2004, alleging that atrazine runoff from farmland was contaminating the water supplies of several southern Illinois towns. In 2010, he sued the company in federal court on behalf of water districts in six Midwestern states.
Using typical Tillery tactics, the St. Louis attorney made life so miserable for Syngenta that the company eventually was "persuaded" to settle and stop the hemorrhaging of litigation fees.
Peace of mind came at a price of $105 million – which translates to a mere $5,000 per claimant, plus $37 million in fees for Tillery and his team of attorneys.
"After years of litigation, the parties agreed to settle these lawsuits in order to avoid further business uncertainty and expense of protracted litigation," a Syngenta press release explained when the settlement was announced this past May.
"No one ever has, or ever could be, exposed to enough atrazine in water to affect their health," the release affirmed, describing atrazine as "one of the best understood herbicides in the world, with almost 7,000 studies conducted over the past 50 years having examined its safety."
On Tuesday, Tillery"s team filed a motion urging U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert to approve the settlement. "The settlement is more than fair," they asserted. "The Court should finally approve the settlement."
Given that Tillery was never obliged to prove his case, that he and his team expressed serious doubts about their ability to win in court, and that the seemingly endless legal tactics had the power to--in effect--force a settlement rather than prove a wrong, the settlement certainly is "more than fair." In fact, it's more than outrageous.
It will be interesting to see what Judge Gilbert's idea of fair is.