A lawsuit filed under seal in St. Clair County Circuit Court seeks damages from makers and local distributors of the herbicide atrazine over birth defect claims.
Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson sealed the case filed by attorneys Robert Sprague of Belleville and Joseph Power of Chicago on Aug. 14, but lawyers made the case public two days later when they filed it as an exhibit in a federal court case in Benton.
The lawsuit was attached to a motion to intervene in a class action over the effects of the weed killer on public water supplies.
Sprague and Power claim atrazine in an Illinois woman’s tap water caused the urethra of her son to open from a wrong part of his penis.
Gleeson said on Aug. 28 that Sprague didn’t violate the seal order.
He said that it does not violate any seal orders or rules even though the state court case is sealed and the federal one is not.
“It was sealed because the case involves a minor who he says deserves the right to confidentiality,” Gleeson said.
The plaintiffs’ identities are not revealed in the lawsuit. They are named as Jane Doe and James Doe.
The federal lawsuit - involving claims against atrazine maker Syngenta - settled last year for $105 million, but document disputes keep it running at district court in Benton and the Seventh Circuit appeals court in Chicago.
A settlement between plaintiff attorney Stephen Tillery and Syngenta Crop Protection called for each side to destroy or return confidential documents, but Tillery hasn’t done it.
He doesn’t have to, because Magistrate Judge Phil Frazier ruled in July that he lacked jurisdiction to compel compliance.
Frazier wrote that jurisdiction lies at the Seventh Circuit, where other intervenors seek access to confidential Syngenta documents.
Now Sprague and Power introduce another document dispute.
Their motion calls for District Judge Phil Gilbert to give Jane Doe copies of all documents that Tillery obtained from Syngenta.
They claim the cost of repeating discovery would likely exceed her claim.
The documents relate less to Jane Doe than to Switzerland.
She sued not only Syngenta Crop Protection but also its Swiss owner, Syngenta AG.
That tactic worked for Tillery, who convinced Gilbert to exercise jurisdiction over Syngenta AG.
Sprague and Power saluted Gilbert’s decision on the third page of the St. Clair County lawsuit, and followed with 10 pages summarizing what Tillery discovered about the Swiss company.
“Syngenta Crop Protection and Syngenta AG are indistinguishable for purposes of this lawsuit,” Sprague and Power wrote.
They followed with 12 pages about atrazine, writing that about 75 percent of Illinois cornfields are treated with it.
The suit claims that Syngenta manipulated evidence and altered or suppressed scientific findings of adverse effects.
“No scientific basis exists for estimating safe levels of atrazine exposure during fetal development periods,” they wrote.
Next they asserted claims against farm supplier Growmark, M&M of Carlinville, Hamel Seed and Farm Supply of Worden, and St. Clair Service of Belleville.