GMO corn lawsuits have been filed against Syngenta in both federal and state courts. The vast majority of these lawsuits have been filed in state court in Minnesota.
Both federal and state courts have systems in place that allow the general public to access documents filed in the lawsuits:
- The federal system is known as PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records).
- The Minnesota system is called MPA Remote.
A detailed review of both systems revealed that, as of May 1, 2015, more than 7000 GMO corn lawsuits have been filed against Syngenta.
Some of the largest law firms in the United States are involved on both sides of the litigation.
- Syngenta is represented by Kirkland & Ellis, a firm with over 1,600 lawyers worldwide.
- Cargill, Inc., which filed the first lawsuit against Syngenta, retained Green Espel in Minneapolis, MN. Green Espel’s client list includes companies such as 3M, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Graco, Honeywell, International, Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers and Tyson Foods.
- ADM retained Sidley Austin, a firm with over 1,800 lawyers worldwide.
- Many farmers and grain elevators have hired the same firms that obtained a $750 million settlement from Bayer Crop Sciences in the GMO rice litigation. For example, Mikal Watts of Watts Guerra negotiated for months with Bayer’s settlement counsel to achieve the first of two nationwide settlement agreements, in which Bayer agreed to pay $750 million to settle thousands of rice farmers’ claims.
- Other lawyers involved in the GMO rice litigation are also involved in the GMO corn litigation, and all of the firms are working together diligently to pursue the case against Syngenta.
Syngenta provided some information to its shareholders concerning the GMO corn lawsuit in its 2014 Annual Review, but the size of the lawsuit has grown considerably since then. Syngenta’s 2014 Annual Review mentions the AGRISURE VIPTERA® litigation, but states merely that it “believes that pending lawsuits relating to the marketing of AGRISURE VIPTERA® are without merit.” However, Syngenta’s Financial Report for 2014 provides more detail:
- Since September 12, 2014, a total of 762 lawsuits (as of January 28, 2015) have been filed against Syngenta in state and federal courts in the United States by plaintiffs seeking damages from Syngenta for commercializing its AGRISURE VIPTERA® (MIR162) and DURACADE™ corn seed in the United States before those products obtained import approval from China.
- Of the 762 lawsuits, 696 of the lawsuits were filed by individual plaintiffs (growers of non-MIR162 corn and exporters such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland).
- 545 of the lawsuits were originally filed in federal court and 217 were filed in state court. Syngenta has attempted to move all cases to federal court. Some plaintiffs have successfully moved their cases back to state court.
- On December 11, 2014, a federal court ordered the consolidation of all federal cases in Kansas City for coordinated pre-trial proceedings.
- The lawsuits generally include causes of action for product liability, negligence, tortious interference, public nuisance and trespass to chattels. The allegations include claims that Syngenta issued misleading statements concerning the status of or timetable for approval of import of VIPTERA™ corn into China and that the public had a right to expect that corn sold to the general public was free from “contamination” with VIPTERA®
- The Cargill lawsuit refers to damages in excess of $90 million, and the lawsuit filed by one other exporter claims damages of $41 million.
We believe Syngenta will provide more information in its update regarding the first quarter of 2015.
We anticipate that more than 100,000 farmers, landlords, and grain elevators will ultimately file suit against Syngenta.
* 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.