BELLEVILLE – Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson has ordered Monsanto to move for a finding of good faith in its $21 million mass settlement of pollution claims.
Gleeson entered such a finding in 2016, but second defendant Cerro Copper successfully appealed it.
In an opinion last April, Fifth District Justice Judy Cates wrote that a total lack of information cast doubt on the validity of the settlement. She wrote that Gleeson didn’t read the documents.
Gleeson had been preparing for trial against Cerro in spite of the appellate court ruling.
The order he signed Feb. 1 recognizing the necessity of dealing with Monsanto came as an agreement between Cerro and plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs stipulated that, “Monsanto has not begun any proceedings to address the good faith issue on remand.”
They agreed to delay the first trial in the mass action from March 18 to July 8.
Environmental Litigation Group of Birmingham, Ala., started suing in 2009.
Former chief judge John Baricevic stayed the proceedings in favor of mediation.
In 2014, Monsanto settled and Cerro didn’t.
The lawyers brought forth more plaintiffs, raising the total to 11,256.
In 2015, most plaintiffs received $600 “participation payments.”
Last year’s Fifth District decision shook the confidence of some plaintiffs.
When plaintiff Jacqueline Everson began circulating petitions to fire the lawyers, they warned her that they might drop her as a client.
They sent letters telling clients to stop talking to each other.
They wrote that the Fifth District decision didn’t change anything.
As the protest spread, Monsanto sent checks to those who received $600 in 2015.
Some received less than $200, and few received more than $600.
Their lawyers, in the name of transparency, told clients the settlement provided $9.9 million for plaintiffs and $10.8 million for lawyers and experts.
Last fall, Gleeson set a March trial for plaintiffs Charlie Coburn, Willie Hudson, and the estate of Josephine Locket.
In December, Cerro moved to stay all trial proceedings until Gleeson resolved the issue of good faith.
Cerro separately moved to continue trial 35 days for purposes of preparation.
Gleeson denied both motions on Jan. 2.
Cerro appealed, but this time it didn’t need to await Fifth District action.
Cerro and plaintiffs stipulated that if Gleeson hasn’t issued a ruling on Monsanto’s good faith motion by May 8, the July 8 trial date would be vacated.
In that event, trial would start at least 60 days after he has ruled on good faith.
Thomas Ysursa signed the stipulation for Cerro, and Paul Schoen signed it as local counsel for the Alabama lawyers.