Syngenta and the parties involved in the nationwide class action suit filed in federal court in Kansas have reached a $1.51 billion “global settlement.” Plaintiffs in the suit are claiming damages sustained due to the 2013 Chinese rejection of U.S. corn for containing the Agrisure Viptera trait that was approved in the U.S., but not yet approved in China. The plaintiffs argued that the company’s marketing of the genetically modified corn seed caused contamination of the U.S. crop, and a rejection of export sales by Chinese officials.
The settlement intends to cover all U.S. corn producers and grain handling facilities and ethanol plants that sold corn priced after Sept. 15, 2013. Many Iowa farmers joined the suit, now thought to be the largest agricultural litigation settlement in U.S. history. You may remember, in June 2017, a jury found for roughly 7,300 Kansas corn farmers in the amount of $217.7 million regarding their claim for economic damages against Syngenta.
So, what’s next? The attorneys involved have filed for preliminary approval of the settlement in the district court for Kansas. All corn growers, grain handling facilities, (as defined in the settlement) etc., are covered — even those who opted out of the previous litigation.
After the settlement is approved by the court, notices will be mailed to class members and published by media outlets around the country and on the settlement website. If the judge approves the settlement in its final form, the funds could potentially be distributed sometime in the first half of 2019, say industry sources.
To receive a portion of the settlement, class members must submit a claim form. For more information, visit syngentacornlitigation.com.
Another suit to watch
Another lawsuit we are watching involves a federal judge’s ruling in a mass-action lawsuit brought by Missouri River basin landowners against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flooding impacts in four states along the river, including Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.
The Ideker Farms, et al v. United States of America, was a suit filed by 372 landowners, farmers and owners of businesses.
The federal court judge, in the case, ruled that the Army Corp (i.e., U.S. government) must compensate those individuals for flood damages due to the Corps’ deprioritizing of flood control in 2004. The suit was filed in 2014, and the plaintiffs claimed that the Corps took private property without “just compensation” in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
The judge, in her opinion, found that the Corps made changes to the river which essentially had the effect of raising the water levels “in periods of high flows,” causing recurrent flooding that will continue.
Now the court is tasked with determining the extent of the losses due to the Corps’ taking. Plaintiffs estimate that number to be over $300 million. Interestingly, there were more than 20 million documents produced in the first phase of the case and the judge’s ruling was 259 pages long.
Of course, there is also talk about complaints and related lawsuits being filed against Monsanto and BASF in relation to dicamba drift. Farmers in roughly 10 states have filed class action lawsuits claiming losses due to drift and new dicamba formulations produced by those companies. As always, we will continue to monitor these suits and update readers.
Herbold-Swalwell is an attorney with Brick-Gentry PC in Des Moines. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.