KANSAS CITY, Kan., September 13, 2015 – A federal district court judge on Friday dismissed a number of the legal claims filed against Syngenta regarding U.S. sales of Viptera, but will allow some challenges to be potentially amended and others to go forward.
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Syngenta in federal and state courts by those who claim they faced potential losses of more than a billion dollars in 2014 because China initially refused to accept corn imports grown with seeds containing the firm’s genetically modified trait – Viptera MIR162.
In this federal multi-district litigation, there are three groups of plaintiffs – corn producers, non-producer sellers like Cargill and Trans Coastal, and milo producers.
In a summary of his rulings, Senior Federal District Judge John Lungstrum dismissed the following claims, although he granted leave to amend some claims in the future. The dismissals include:
- · All claims based on an alleged failure to warn to the extent based on a lack of warnings in materials accompanying the products.
- · The corn producer and non-corn producer plaintiffs’ trespass to chattel claims – for claims under all states’ laws except Louisiana.
- · The corn producers’ claims for private nuisance.
- · Plaintiffs’ Lanham Act claims to the extent based on representations in the deregulation petition, earnings conference call with Syngenta CEO Mike Mack, and request form.
- · Non-Producer plaintiff Trans Coastal’s fraud claim based on the request form.
- · Trans Coastal’s negligent misrepresentation claims.
- · Plaintiffs’ claims under the Minnesota consumer protection statutes
- · Corn producers’ claims for violation of North Carolina’s consumer protection statutes to the extent based on misrepresentations.
- · Corn producer plaintiffs’ claims for violations of North Dakota’s consumer protection statutes to the extent based on representations in the deregulation petition.
However, several other legal claims challenged by Syngenta were not dismissed. For example, a claim by corn producer plaintiffs in Illinois who alleged violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act was allowed to stand.
In a statement issued after the ruling, Syngenta said: “We are pleased that the Court dismissed a number of the claims in the Viptera China litigation. The Court was legally required at this early stage to take the plaintiffs' allegations at face value, and accordingly concluded that certain claims could go forward past the initial pleading phase. The plaintiffs will now have to prove their claims with real evidence, and we look forward to defending ourselves vigorously as the litigation proceeds.
“Syngenta believes the lawsuits are without merit and we will continue to defend the rights of American farmers to have access to safe, effective, U.S.-approved technologies like Agrisure Viptera. We commercialized Viptera in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements, and USDA statistics make clear that the commodity price of corn declined before China’s rejection of U.S. corn in November 2013.”
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