- Each state has its own statute of limitations, setting forth deadlines to file suit within a certain time after the Plaintiff knew or should have known he or she has a claim.
- It is unknown at this time what the trigger date is for the statute of limitations to begin to run.
- There are arguments that may be made that the statute of limitations has been tolled.
- If the suit is not filed by the time the statute of limitations runs, the lawsuit may not be brought at all.
Statutes of Limitations Vary From State to State
Twenty states produce almost ninety-nine percent (99%) of the corn grown in the United States. In order of corn productivity, those states are Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, South Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee. Some states follow one-year statutes of limitations (e.g. Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky). Other states follow two-year statutes of limitations (e.g. Iowa, Illinois, and Texas). Wisconsin and Colorado follow three-year statutes of limitations. Nebraska has a four-year statute of limitation and Minnesota has a six-year statute of limitation. For cases that are filed in Minnesota, the statute of limitation that will be applied will be the statute of limitation applicable in the farmers’ home state. If the applicable period has expired, your cause of action against Syngenta may have too. To determine which statute of limitation applies to you, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney with knowledge of the Syngenta corn litigation.
Statutes of Limitations Triggering Date is Unknown
Currently, it is unknown what the trigger date is for the statute of limitations to begin to run. Ultimately, Syngenta will seek to eliminate lawsuits by filing motions for summary judgment based on the expiration of different statutes of limitations. Syngenta will contend that the plaintiff knew or should have known of his or her claim at the earliest possible moment in time. For example, the price began to drop in June of 2013 from $7.00/bushel to $4.25/bushel. As a result, Syngenta may claim that farmers knew or should have known of their claim as early as June of 2013. While farmers’ counsel will certainly contest this, the risk is present that a judge may agree with Syngenta. Moreover, some farmers’ statute of limitation may have begun to run in November of 2013, when there was a widespread press release regarding China turning away U.S. corn shipments.
The Statute of Limitations May be Tolled in Some Scenarios
Adding more complexity to the issue is that different jurisdictions have different rules concerning when the statute of limitations begins to run. For example, Texas applies a two-year statute of limitations to products liability actions based upon causes of action brought under negligence or strict liability. TEX.CIV.PRAC.&REM.CODE § 16.003. However, the limitations period does not commence until the particular claim “accrues.” See id. While a claim generally “accrues” at the time of injury, Texas’ discovery rule provides an exception to the general rule of accrual. Burns v. Thomas, 786 S.W.2d 266, 267 (Tex. 1990); Gaddis v. Smith, 417 S.W.2d 577 (Tex. 1967).
Under the discovery rule, a cause of action “accrues” and the limitations period commences when the plaintiff “discovers or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered the facts establishing a cause of action.” Burns, 786 S.W.2d at 267. The discovery rule tolls the limitations period “until the plaintiff learns or reasonably should have learned of the negligent cause.”
Woodruff v. A.H. Robins Co., 742 F.2d 228, 230 (5th Cir. 1984) (emphasis added) (applying Texas law). In other words, the limitations period does not commence in Texas until the plaintiff knows or should know: (1) that she has been injured; (2) a product caused her injury; and (3) her injury resulted from a “negligent cause.” See id.; see also S.V. v. R.V., 933 S.W.2d 1, 8 (Tex. 1996) (explaining that there must be evidence of wrong and an injury to warrant application of the discovery rule). Furthermore, different jurisdictions have rules concerning when the running of the statute of limitations may be interrupted or tolled. For example, when class actions are filed, the statute of limitations may be tolled until class certification issues are resolved under American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974).
Filing Your Cause of Action in a Timely Manner
Be sure to file your cause of action in a timely manner with the statute of limitations in mind. The important lesson here is that if the suit is not filed by the time the statute of limitations runs, the lawsuit may not be brought at all. Farmers and lawyers representing them in suits against Syngenta must be especially diligent to ensure claims are timely filed in the courts.
* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the GMO corn lawsuit, and should not be received as legal advice. Legal advice is only given to persons or entities with whom Watts Guerra LLP has established an attorney-client relationship. If you have another lawyer in the GMO Corn lawsuit, you should consult with your own attorney, and rely upon his or her advice, rather than the information contained herein.