BELLEVILLE – Two lawyers plan to pursue a St. Clair County injury suit against Syngenta, producer of weed killer atrazine, with documents that Syngenta’s owners arranged for a third lawyer to destroy.
On Aug. 16, two days after Robert Sprague of Belleville and Joseph Power of Chicago sued Syngenta, they intervened in a federal class action that closed last year.
They advised District Judge Phil Gilbert that their Jane Doe client needed documents that Stephen Tillery of St. Louis obtained in the class action.
They claimed her son suffered a birth defect because she drank water with atrazine in it. They moved to modify a protective order classifying documents as confidential.
“Intervenors’ claims against Syngenta and others cannot be economically pursued if they must repeat the discovery plaintiffs performed in this case because that cost would likely greatly exceed intervenors’ claims,” they wrote.
They urged Gilbert to deny a motion from Syngenta that would compel Tillery to destroy the documents. They attached a subpoena requiring Tillery to produce the documents Aug. 21.
On Aug. 19, Syngenta opposed the motion to modify the protective order. Syngenta would keep the original copies of the documents. Tillery could return his documents to Syngenta instead of destroying them.
Syngenta has promised to give relevant documents to Sprague and Power.
Kurtis Reeg of St. Louis wrote that the true purpose of the motion was to allow Tillery to maintain possession of the documents.
“Mr. Tillery has refused to comply with this court’s protective order despite requests from Syngenta,” Reeg wrote.
He wrote that Power had no legitimate basis to serve as Tillery’s stalking horse and that Power encouraged violation of the protective order when he issued Tillery a subpoena in the St. Clair County suit.
He wrote that the order created procedures for exchanging sensitive material such as employee information, financial information, and trade secrets. Also, he wrote that Syngenta destroyed all confidential documents and information that plaintiffs provided.
“If a party were permitted to keep possession of its litigation adversary’s confidential, sensitive documents after the conclusion of a lawsuit for purposes unrelated to the lawsuit, litigants would be exposed to a host of adverse risks, including dissemination of trade secrets and valuable business information to competitors, negative publicity, and dissemination of incomplete and misleading financial information to investors,” he wrote.
He wrote that Tillery violated the protective order by failing to notify Syngenta that Sprague and Power issued their subpoena.
“Rather, Syngenta spotted the subpoena at the end of the exhibits attached to Mr. Power’s motion to intervene just before close of business on Friday, August 16,” he wrote.
Syngenta argued in July that Tillery’s deadline for destruction passed on June 20, but Magistrate Judge Phil Frazier ruled that he lacked jurisdiction to compel compliance.
He wrote that jurisdiction lies at the Seventh Circuit appellate court in Chicago, where other intervenors seek access to documents.
Syngenta moved for reconsideration, and the motion remains pending.