U.S. District Judge David Herndon has dismissed some big players named as defendants in corn seed litigation, but is delaying entry of judgment until the case against Syngenta AG is closed.
Herndon presides over three suits with about 2,000 corn farmers as plaintiffs, who claim corn sells for lower prices because China won’t allow import of corn that grew from Syngenta’s genetically modified Viptera seeds.
Farmers have sued Syngenta Seeds by tens of thousands since 2014, creating a hodgepodge of jurisdiction.
Most early plaintiffs sued in the Southern District federal court, and they moved for national consolidation of all federal suits before Herndon.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation granted consolidation, but not in Herndon’s court - they assigned the action to District Judge John Lungstrum of Kansas City, Kan.
In the case before Herndon, plaintiffs also name as defendants Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bunge North America Inc., Cargill Incorporated, Cargill International SA, Louis Dreyfus Commodities LLC d/b/a Louis Dreyfus Company LLC and Gavilon Grain LLC., collectively referred to as "ABCDG," claiming that all the companies were responsible for injuries.
In January, the court dismissed with prejudice the claim against ABCDG.
The plaintifs then filed an application for the court to recognize their claims against Syngenta and ABCDG were different enough and requested the court to make a judgment against ABCDG.
ABCDG filed a motion to oppose such a move.
In Herndon's Feb. 24 order he wrote, “The text of Rule 54(b) indicates that a district court should only enter partial judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b) when two circumstances are present.”
The first circumstance is that the partial judgment "must resolve all disputes with a particular party or resolve a claim that is distinct from the others.”
The second condition was that the court “must make the determination that there is no just reason for delay in entering the partial judgment.”
Another reason the court stated was that the “plaintiffs' still-pending claims against Syngenta are factually and legally similar to those adjudicated in the ABCDG defendants’ favor, thus preventing entry of judgment at this time.”
The order states that the facts alleged against Syngenta overlapped with those against ABCDG.
“Plaintiffs allege negligence against all defendants based on Syngenta’s commercialization of Viptera and Duracade corn seeds. Plaintiffs argue that Syngenta and the ABCDG defendants were negligent in the marketing, distribution, and sale of the Viptera and Duracade corn seed,” the court wrote in its decision.
“In the motions to dismiss filed by Syngenta and the ABCDG defendants, each raised the same or similar legal arguments and defenses addressing the economic loss doctrine and preemption under the United States Grain Standards Act.”
Those defenses in Syngenta’s motion to dismiss include the same legal doctrines included in motions filed by ABCDG, the order states.
“Also, Syngenta’s pending motion to dismiss involves factual bases associated with the claims against the ABCDG defendants.”
Thus the court decided that rule 54(b) certification was not appropriate.