Madison - St. Clair Record

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Negotiator, committee appointed for Syngenta suits

By Olivia Olsen | Sep 11, 2017

EAST ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge David R. Herndon issued two orders appointing a settlement negotiation committee to work with a special master in litigation against agribusiness Syngenta.

The orders were filed Aug. 9 in the proceedings of Michael’s Grain Farm Inc. et al v. Syngenta, Poletti et al v. Syngenta, and Tweet et al v. Syngenta. Similar suits have been filed in Minnesota and Kansas.

In addition to Ellen K. Reisman as special master, Herndon also appointed Christopher A. Seeger of Seeger Weiss LLP, Mikal Watts of Watts Guerra LLP, Clayton A. Clark of Clark, Love & Hutson GP, and Daniel E. Gustafson of Gustafson Gluek PLLC to the committee.

Syngenta provides seeds and agrichemcials to its U.S.-based customers. Many of the country’s farmers purchased corn seeds through the company at a time when corn revenue was at an all-time high, partially due to heavy sales within China. 

As the Record has previously reported, the agricompany began utilizing Viptera corn seeds, a variety that had not yet been approved for import in China. China had rejected the shipments.

The fallout of the Chinese rejections drove down domestic prices and ignited suits against the company in various districts throughout the U.S. In June, a Kansas district court ruled in favor of the roughly 7,000 plaintiffs for $217.7 million, Reuters reported.

According to the order appointing the settlement negotiation committee, Reisman was granted “authority, without limitation, to construct an efficient procedure to engage the parties in settlement negotiations.” 

Her duties will include, but are not limited to "conducting in-person settlement negotiation;" "ordering the appearance of any persons necessary to settle any claims completely," and "making recommendations to the courts concerning any issues that may require resolution," according to the order.

Reisman and the committee will be responsible for creating a settlement that is fair and balanced for the many different parties involved in litigation. 

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois