- In the United States, state courts are primarily responsible for (1) lawsuits between citizens of the same state, and (2) lawsuits filed by out-of-state citizens against in-state defendants.
- U.S. federal courts are primarily responsible for (1) lawsuits between citizens of different states, and (2) lawsuits involving questions of federal law.
- Syngenta is based in Minnesota; therefore, any citizen of the United States may file suit against Syngenta in Minnesota state court.
- Syngenta argued that federal question jurisdiction exists in these cases because of China’s role in rejecting MIR 162 corn.
- On May 5, 2015, a federal judge ruled that China’s role in rejecting MIR 162 corn does not create federal question jurisdiction.
- State court lawsuits against Syngenta are being consolidated in Minnesota state court. Federal court lawsuits are being handled in a multi-district litigation in Kansas City.
In the U.S., state courts are courts of “general jurisdiction.” This means that state courts have authority to hear all kinds of cases. U.S. federal courts are courts of “limited jurisdiction.” This means that federal courts are only authorized to hear certain kinds of cases that are identified by the U.S. Congress. Defendants who are sued in state court have a right to “remove” a lawsuit from state court to federal court if the case could have been filed in federal court.
In practice, state courts are primarily responsible for lawsuits between citizens of the same state and lawsuits filed by out-of-state citizens against in-state defendants. Federal courts are primarily responsible for lawsuits between citizens of different states and lawsuits involving federal questions.
Because Syngenta’s U.S. entity is based in Minnesota, any citizen of the United States may file suit against Syngenta in Minnesota state court. Thousands of plaintiffs have done so. Minnesota farmers have filed suit in the counties where those farmers reside. Out-of-state farmers have filed suit in Hennepin County, Minnesota, near Minneapolis, where Syngenta’s headquarters are located.
Syngenta has attempted to “remove” cases filed in Minnesota state court to federal court by arguing that the cases could have been filed in federal court. Syngenta has argued that federal question jurisdiction exists because these cases raise a “federal question,” specifically, whether China’s rejection of MIR 162 corn violated the law. On May 5, 2015, a federal judge ruled that these cases do not raise a federal question and thus were properly filed in state court. We expect these cases to be consolidated in Minnesota state court for purposes of pretrial discovery and coordination before being tried individually in the Minnesota counties in which they were filed.
Other plaintiffs have filed suit in federal court under a provision that allows federal courts to hear cases between citizens of different states. Under a 1960 law, all federal court cases involving common issues of law and fact may be consolidated by the Joint Panel on Multi-District Litigation and transferred to a single federal court for pretrial coordination. In this case, all cases in federal court have been consolidated in MDL 2591, before Hon. John W. Lungstrum, in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas.
* 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.